Ever find yourself turning over a random bottle or tube from your bathroom cabinet and wondering about all those ingredients? You’ll find dozens of chemicals cited on personal care products these days, from toothpaste and deodorant, to lipstick and even baby shampoo. Look around your own bathroom and you will probably find numerous products with ingredients you can’t even pronounce -- isobutylparabens, nitrosamine and sodium lauryl sulfate are all common chemical compounds that have made their way into our hygiene and beauty routines. While most of these products deliver chemicals in small doses, studies have shown that small doses of toxic substances can add up fast. But how exposed are we?
In this month’s Green Quiz Challenge we asked you:
How many cosmetic chemicals is the average woman exposed to on a daily basis?
A. 20 - 40 B. 40 - 60 C. 60 - 80 D. 100+
The correct answer is D. 100+. Congratulations to our Green Quiz winners!
More than a hundred cosmetic chemicals a day – that’s a lot, and even in low doses these chemicals add up. What’s worse is that chemical interactions and long-term health impacts of cosmetic chemical exposure aren’t being studied properly.
It may shock you to learn that only 11% of ingredients used by Americans in personal care products have been reviewed for safety. Many companies have no idea about the risks and possible health effects of using their products.
So how do you know which of more than 10,000 ingredients used in personal care products you should be concerned about? Here’s a look at some of the top ingredients to avoid.
Originally developed as a surgical scrub, triclosan is now added to a host of consumer products as an antimicrobial agent to kill bacteria and odors. Triclosan has been linked to hormone disruption and can encourage the growth of bacteria resistant to antibacterial products and antibiotics. Since products containing triclosan are eventually washed down the drain, the chemical is also making its way to lakes, rivers, and oceans, where it is accumulating in high levels in fish and other aquatic species.
Phthalates are a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are found in cosmetics like nail polish and synthetic fragrances. Exposure to phthalates has been linked to interference with reproductive functions, alterations in hormone levels, and infertility.
1,4-dioxane is not listed as an ingredient on labels because it is a contaminant produced during manufacturing. It is most commonly found in sudsy products like shampoo, body wash, and liquid soaps. 1,4-dioxane has been listed as a probable human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency and as a reasonably anticipated carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program.
Synthetic musks are added as scents to perfumes, lotions, body sprays, and a variety of other personal care products. Exposure to synthetic musks can have hormone disrupting effects and studies have also linked the compounds to increased skin sensitivity to UV light.
Lead and Other Heavy Metals
A number of metals, including lead, mercury, aluminum and zinc are found in cosmetics. Lead has been linked to learning and behavioral problems, reduced fertility, and delays in puberty onset in girls. Mercury is linked to reproductive, immune, and respiratory toxicity and is particularly hazardous during fetal development.
Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as an antimicrobial agent in creams, lotions, ointments and other cosmetics. They are absorbed through the skin and have been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, and skin irritation.