Beware the Dirty Dozen

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Personal care products have become a necessity in our daily lives. On average, people can use up to 15-20 cosmetic products a day; shampoo, conditioner, lotion, mouthwash, makeup, etc.

U.S. researchers have reported that one eighth (10,250) of the 82,000 ingredients used in our personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. These ingredients and chemicals can be easily consumed or absorbed into our bodies.

On average, a women who uses lipstick every day can ingest from 4 to 7 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime.

The Story of Cosmetics- The Story of Cosmetics, released on July 21st, 2010, examines the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our everyday personal care products, from lipstick to baby shampoo.

Here we have gathered the Dirty Dozen toxic chemicals that you should know and avoid. (When talking about cosmetics, we are not just talking about makeup. Cosmetics refer to all personal products you put on your body.)

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are related to synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in lipsticks, moisturizers, etc.

They can induce allergic reactions in the skin and have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible human carcinogen.

Although BHT has been listed as safe for humans, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic has listed BHA as a chemical of potential concern with its toxicity to aquatic organisms and potential to bioaccumulate.

hair-shampooCoal Tar dyes are recognized as a human carcinogen and can be found in dandruff shampoos, anti-itch creams, toothpaste, mouthwash, hair dyes and other products.

They are listed as “FD&C Blue No. 1” or “Blue 1”. (FD&C indicates the color has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in foods, drugs and cosmetics and “D&C” colors indicate they have not been approved for use in food.)

DEA (diethanolamine) can affect hormones; deplete the body of choline needed for fetal brain development. They can be found in soaps, cleansers and shampoos to make cosmetics more creamy or sudsy.

Exposure to high doses of DEA-related ingredients has been shown to cause liver cancer and precancerous changes in skin and thyroids. They can also cause mild to moderate skin and eye irritation.

nail-polish-fumesDBP (Dibutyl phthalate) can be found in nail products as a solvent for dyes and as a plasticizer that prevents nail polishes from becoming brittle.

It is absorbed through the skin and can enhance the capacity of other chemicals to cause genetic mutations. DBP can cause developmental defects, change in the testes and prostate and reduced sperm counts.

The European Union classifies this chemical to be very toxic to aquatic organisms; it is listed as a Chemical for Priority Action.

Formaldehyde can be found in baby bath soap, nail polish, eyelash adhesive and hair dyes as a contaminant or breakdown product of diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium compounds.

It has been classified, by the International Agency of Research on Cancer, as a known human carcinogen. Small amounts of formaldehyde may off-gas from cosmetics and cause skin and eye irritation and trigger allergic reactions.

Parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben) are common preservatives found in toiletries and cosmetics, an estimated 75%-90% of cosmetics contain parabens.

They can penetrate the skin and are suspected of interfering with hormone function. Methylparaben applied on our skin reacts with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage. It has been estimated that women are exposed to 50mg per day of parabens from cosmetics.

1110-green-perfumeParfum (fragrance) in cosmetics usually represents a complex mixture of chemicals, over 3000 of the chemicals used are manufactured synthetic fragrances.

Parfum can be found in nearly every personal care product out there in the market, from cosmetics to toilet paper. It can trigger allergies, migraines and asthma symptoms.

Even fragrance-free or unscented products contain parfum ingredients as a form of masking agents that prevent the brain from perceiving the odor.

PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are used as thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisture carriers in cosmetics.

PEGS may be contaminated with measurable amounts of 1,4-dioxane, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen. Although 1,4-dioxane can be removed from cosmetics during the manufacturing process by vacuum stripping there is no way for consumers to know if the product containing PEGS have actually undergone this process.

Petrolatum is mineral oil jelly or petroleum jelly and is used as moisturizer and in hair shine products.

Petroleum products can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs can be associated with cancer, skin irritation and allergies.

Siloxanes (cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane and cyclomethicone) are silicone-based compounds used in cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. They make products like deodorant creams slide on easily and dry quickly.

Cyclotetrasiloxane and cylcopentasiloxane also known as D4 and D5 are toxic endocrine disruptors, interfere with human hormone function and possible reproductive toxicants that may impair human fertility, cause uterine tumors and harm the reproductive and immune systems.

Cyclohexasiloxane (D6) is persistent and has the potential to bioaccumulate.

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is used as a cleansing agent in cosmetics and a foaming agent or detergent found in shampoos, bubble bath products, household and utensil cleaning detergents.

SLES is a possible human carcinogen and can even cause harm to the nervous system, It can also irritate the skin and eyes.

child-applying-hand-sanitizerTriclosan is mainly used in antiperspirants, cleansers and hand sanitizers as a preservative and an anti-bacterial agent.

It can pass through skin and is suspected of interfering with hormone function, it may also contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Triclosan doesn’t easily degrade and can build up in our environment after being rinsed down the drain.

You can learn a lot by reading the labels on the products you buy. We should arm ourselves with knowledge not just for our well-being but for the well-being of our families and our environment.

Don’t depend on the tempting ads given to you, depend on yourself and look for alternative organic and natural methods for your personal care.

The Suzuki Foundation has a great guide on how to avoid the Dirty Dozen from your everyday cosmetics.whats-inside-shoppers-guideDownload pdf here: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/publications/downloads/2010/whats-inside-shoppers-guide.pdf

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Flame Retardants

home-interior-decorating-80In the month of June, Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health care systems, announced that they will stop using upholstered furniture treated with toxic flame retardants chemicals in their hospitals, medical offices and other buildings. Kaiser Permanente has set an example for everyone, they want manufacturers to switch to more sustainable and environmentally friendly products and this will not happen unless we, the consumers, demand a change.

What are Flame retardants?

Flame retardants are compounds added to manufactured materials, such as plastics and textiles, and surface finishes and coatings that inhibit, suppress, or delay the production of flames to prevent the spread of fire.

Today, flame retardants are used predominantly in four major areas:

  • Electronics
  • Building insulation
  • Polyurethane foam
  • Wire and cable

The two types of flame retardants that cause concerns are; halogenated flame retardants containing chlorine or bromide bonded to carbon and organophosphorous flame retardants containing phosphorous bonded to carbon.

Video Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

Why are Flame retardants a big deal?

The chemicals don’t break down and generally have long term effects rather than immediate effects and can build up in humans and animals. They are not bound to the foam and can settle into the dust around our homes. Flame retardants have become so pervasive they can now be found in meats, fish, and dairy products.

Image from Green Science Policy Insitute

Flame retardants have been linked to male infertility, birth defects, cancer, reduced IQ’s and other health problems.

Children can carry an average of three times the levels of flame retardants in their bodies than the levels found in their mother. How you ask? Simply put, children spend their time putting their hands, toys, anything they seem fit in their mouths and unintentionally ingest more flame retardant chemicals from the dust.

Do they prevent fire from spreading? 

Flame retardants do not increase overall fire safety. Even though they can delay ignition for a few seconds in products, they will eventually burn and produce toxic gases that cause most fire injuries and deaths.

What can we do?

Keep your home dust free. The Natural Resources Defense Council has some helpful tips on what you can do to reduce flame retardants in your home and your body.

  • Vacuum carpets with a vacuum that contains a HEPA filter.
  • Damp mop floors and damp dust furniture on a regular basis.
  • Wash hands frequently, especially before eating. Don’t eat on your couch!
  • Choose naturally flame resistant fabrics and fill such as wool, cotton or jute.
  • Call manufacturers to ask about their use of flame retardants.
  • Check the label before you buy upholstered furniture and if you live outside of California, don’t buy furniture that carries a TB 117 label.
  • Vacuum and wipe down your car’s interior regularly.
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Connecting the Dots: Breast Cancer and Office Paper

For many, October marks the end of summer, the beginning of numerous holidays, and of course, good food. But, did you know that October also marks the 25th anniversary of Breast Cancer Awareness Month? According to the Breast Cancer Fund, breast cancer impacts the lives of nearly one in seven women in the U.S. annually, and has increased in men by 25% in the last quarter century alone.

At this point, you are probably asking what breast cancer has to do with Dolphin Blue, a provider of eco-friendly office supplies. Well the answer is simple. Everything.

To continue reading this article, please visit:  http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Connecting-the-Dots–Breast-Cancer-and-Office-Paper.html

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Heroes of Sustainability: Dr. Helen Caldicott and The Ultimate Form of Preventive Medicine

“She showed me what one set-on-fire human being can do to shift the consciousness of the world.”  –Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking

Madonna once called to chat. Meryl Streep said, “Helen Caldicott has been my inspiration to speak out.” Martin Sheen says she’s shining “a powerful light.”

A number of well-known celebrities back the work of Dr. Helen Caldicott, but in the world of anti-nuclear activists, Dr. Caldicott’s name is a bigger marquee than all her Hollywood supporters combined.

For nearly 40 years, Australia native Dr. Caldicott has been on a mission to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age and the changes humans need to make to stop environmental destruction.

She started her career as a doctor, founding the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital in 1975 and then moving to the United States to become an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a staff member at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston. But as good as she was at medicine, in the wake of the Three Mile Island accident, the pull of preventing nuclear war was stronger, and in 1980, she resigned in order to give her full-time attention to this mission. Her medical roots, however, continue to inform her work. In her book Nuclear Madness, she writes: “As a doctor, as well as a mother and a world citizen, I wish to practice the ultimate form of preventive medicine by ridding the earth of these technologies that propagate disease, suffering, and death.”

Dr. Caldicott doesn’t just talk about her beliefs — she does something about them. In the U.S., she co-founded Physicians for Social Responsibility, an organization of 23,000 doctors committed to educating their colleagues about the dangers of nuclear power, nuclear weapons, and nuclear war, and has started similar groups in other countries. The international umbrella organization, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

She has written prolifically on the topic of halting nuclear weapons production, authoring seven books and countless articles. Most recently, she updated her classic If You Love This Planet, detailing trends such as ozone depletion, global warming, toxic pollution, food contamination, and deforestation, but offering hope as she rallies readers of the book to fight for the earth as we know it.

Her work has not gone unnoticed. Dr. Caldicott has received more than 20 honorary doctoral degrees from universities, and she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Linus Pauling, a Nobel Laureate. In 2003, she was presented with the Lannan Foundation’s Prize for Cultural Freedom; she was named Humanist of the Year in 1982 by the American Humanist Association; and the Smithsonian Institute labeled her one of the most influential women of the 20th century.

And like her Hollywood supporters, she’s been in movies — not as an actor, but as the subject. Eight Minutes to Midnight was nominated for an Academy Award in 1981, while If You Love This Planet took home the Academy Award for best documentary in 1982. Helen’s War: Portrait of a Dissident was created by Dr. Caldicott’s filmmaker niece and won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Direction (Documentary) 2004, and the Sydney Film Festival Dendy Award for Best Documentary in 2004.

Now splitting her time between Australia and the U.S., Dr. Caldicott gives lectures and hosts a weekly radio show called If You Love This Planet, which covers issues such as global warming, nuclear weapons, nuclear power, toxic pollution, hunger and poverty, and species extinction in an hour-long, in-depth format.

A lifetime devoted to educating the public came at a personal cost, leaving Dr. Caldicott with too little family time and a failed marriage. In the end, though, she believes it was her destiny. “I could have stayed at Harvard and done really well. I had a great boss. But I could see beyond pouring stuff into test tubes and treating individual patients. What was the use of caring for my patients so carefully if, in fact, they had no future?”

For more information on Dr. Caldicott, visit her website at www.helencaldicott.com.

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