The Toxic Ten - Chemicals to Avoid in Personal Care Products

There are literally hundreds of potentially harmful chemical ingredients in personal care products. I can't emphasize this enough--read ingredients labels! Products can claim to be natural, even organic, without any substantiation necessary. After reading the ingredients, you find a laundry list of synthetic chemicals and petroleum derivatives.
A good rule of thumb: if you can read and recognize the ingredients without taking Chemistry 101, the product is probably somewhat safe. Keep in mind, however, that some natural ingredients, such as lavender and tea tree oil, have been linked to adverse health effects as well.

Ten ingredients that should be avoided in your personal care products:
1. Fragrance (synthetic): Companies can put any chemical they desire into the product and list it as fragrance, since fragrance is considered proprietary. "Fragrance" typically contains a host of harmful chemicals, such as:
- Phthalates (endocrine disruptor, damage to liver & testes, birth defects, carcinogen, linked to asthma in children)
- Parabens (possible carcinogen, hormone disrupter)
- Dioxins (carcinogens)
2. Mercury: Can you believe that mercury is still an ingredient in many eye drops and mascaras? It is listed as "thimerosal". The dangers of mercury include:
- Profound central nervous system effects
- Impairment of heart & lung function
- Birth defects
3. Phthalates: In synthetic fragrances, nail polishes and hair sprays, as well as soft plastic toys and vinyl shower curtains, phthalates can cause:
- Endocrine disruption
- Damage to liver & testes
- Birth defects
- Cancer
- Asthma in children
4. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate: Contained in about 95% of foaming products, and 50% of personal care products, it is difficult to find a product that doesn't contain it when you comb through the drug store shelves. SLS can cause:
- Skin and eye irritation
- Hair loss
- Microscopic damage to gum tissue, leading to gum disease and increased incidence of canker sores.
- An increase the permeability of the skin, enhancing the absorption of other potentially harmful chemical ingredients
- It is also usually contaminated with toxic by-products from the manufacturing process.
5. Parabens: These widely used preservatives in cosmetics and hair care products:
- Disrupt hormones
- Increase the risk of certain cancers
- Linked to infertility
- Cause allergic skin reactions & irritation
6. Triclosan & Triclocarban: Commonly used in anti-bacterial products, they:
- Interfere with thyroid function
- Create "super-germs", leading to bacterial resistance to antibiotics
- Weaken the immune system
- Alter sex hormones
- Are linked to birth defects
- Cause cancer
- In the environment and at home, combine with chlorine in tap water to produce dangerous chloroform and chlorinated dioxins (carcinogens)
Funny thing is, antibacterial soaps have not been found to be any more effective at killing germs than plain old soap and water.
7. Placenta: Placenta is added to some hair relaxers and is extremely high in hormones, mainly estrogen. Linked to premature breast and sexual development in young girls.
8. Hydroquinone: Banned in many countries, hydroquinone is a common ingredient in skin lighteners. It is a known carcinogen.
9. Diethanolamine (DEA): Found in almost all conventional soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions and cosmetics, DEA is readily absorbed by the skin and accumulates in the internal organs.
- Skin and eye irritant
- Causes impaired vision
- Linked to damage to the kidney, brain, spinal cord, bone marrow, liver and skin in animal tests
- Combines with common nitrate preservatives in cosmetics to form nitrosodiethanolamine (NDLA)-A potent carcinogen

10. Formaldehyde: Still used as a preservative in many cosmetics, face creams, shampoos, bubble bath, deodorants and nail products, causes:
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Coughing
- Asthma attacks
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Nose bleeds
- Ear infections
- Headaches
- Dizziness
- Weakens the immune system
- Cancer in animal tests
Fortunately for the health conscious consumer, there are many products on the market formulated without harmful synthetic chemicals. The manufacturers of these products have their customers' health in mind, and product safety is their ultimate goal. They use only natural, mineral and botanical ingredients to create effective, and even glamorous, cosmetics, skin care, hair care and oral care products. These are infinitely safer than their conventional counterparts, and can help those that are sensitive to or concerned about toxic chemical ingredients.
Cynthia Timm is the owner of Hibiscus Naturals, an online retailer specializing in natural & organic products for the body and home. They carry organic and natural cosmetics, skin care, hair care, and natural household cleaning products. An advocate of product safety, their focus is on educating our customers about the dangers of synthetic chemicals in products they use every day. Find Hibiscus Naturals at [http://www.hibiscusnaturals.com/]

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