Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spooky Facts About Household Products

This information was emailed to me by Melaleuca (they sell nontoxic cleaners, vitamins, etc.), and it's pretty interesting. BTW, my SIL sells Melaleuca and I'll be trying out the products soon and I'll let you know how it works out - if anyone wants to order any, I can get you in touch with her. I'll be expecting a free haircut for that shameless plug, my lovely Lindsey. ;-)

When we pick up a product at the local grocery store, most of us like
to think we are getting something that has been tested and proven to
be safe. After all, we have laws to protect our health and safety,
don't we? Actually, the government has very limited power to regulate
manufacturers, or require testing of their products.

Here are some disturbing facts:

A product that kills 5-% of lab animals through ingestion or
inhalation can still receive the federal regulatory designation
non-toxic . Of the 17,000 chemicals that appear in common household
products, only 30% have been adequately tested for their negative
effects on our health; less than 10% have been tested for their effect
on the nervous system; and nothing is known about the combined effects
of these chemicals when mixed within our bodies. No law requires
manufacturers to list the exact ingredients on the package label.
Personal care product refers to just about anything we use to clean
our bodies or make ourselves look or smell good. The closest thing to
a regulatory agency for the personal care industry is the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA), and their power is extremely limited. Here
are more unsettling facts regarding personal care products:

The FDA cannot regulate a personal care product until after it is
released into the marketplace.
Neither personal care products nor their ingredients are reviewed or
approved before they are sold to the public.

The FDA cannot require companies to do safety testing on their
personal products before they are sold to the public.

The FDA cannot require recalls of harmful personal care products from
the marketplace.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and health (NIOSH)
analyzed 2983 chemicals used in personal care products. The results
were as follows:

884 of the chemicals were toxic
314 caused biological mutation
218 caused reproductive complications
778 caused acute toxicity
148 caused tumors
376 caused skin and eye irritations.

Warning: You Can't Trust Warning Labels!

You may think you know what is in a product and its potential harms by
reading ingredient and warning labels. Think again. Manufacturers are
not required to list the exact ingredients on the label. Also,
chemical names are often disguised by using innocuous trade names. So,
even if the chemical is listed on the label, you may not recognize it
for what it is. Even if the harsh and dangerous active ingredients are
listed on a package, often time the remainder of ingredients are
lumped into a category known as inert (not active) ingredients. This
term may lead you to believe that these chemicals are not toxic or
hazardous. In fact, many of the 1,000 different chemicals used as
inert ingredients are more harmful than the active ingredients. The
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not require manufacturers
to identify most inert chemicals, or disclose their potential harmful
effects. Even suspected carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) are used
as inert ingredients in household products.

Regarding warning labels. One New York study found that 85% of
products they examined had incorrect warning labels. Some were labeled
poisonous, but weren't; others were poisonous but weren't labeled as
such; others gave incorrect first aid information. And there are
absolutely no warnings on products about possible negative effects of
long-term exposure. This is unfortunate because most diseases linked
to chemical exposure are the result of long-term exposure.

If we don't know what is in it, and we don't know if it can hurt us,
how are we supposed to make an intelligent decision about whether or
not to bring this product into our home?

Cleaning products
(just a few that I know are used in house cleaning)
Air freshener- toxic; may cause cancer; irritates, nose, throat, and
Disinfectant- very toxic; causes skin, throat, and lung burns; causes
Drain cleaner- toxic; causes skin burns; causes liver and kidney
Oven cleaner - toxic; causes skin, throat and lung burns.
Window Cleaner- toxic; causes cns disorders; causes liver and kidney
Floor/Furniture polish - toxic causes cns disorders, may cause lung
Spot remover- toxic; may cause cancer, may cause liver damage.
All Purpose Cleaner - causes eye damage; irritates nose, throat and
Toilet bowl cleaner - very toxic; causes skin, nose, throat and lung
Chlorinated scouring powder- toxic; highly irritating to nose, throat
and lungs.
Dishwasher Detergent - toxic; causes eye injuries, damage to mucous
membranes and throat.
As I said just a few.

One Common Ingredient

Although it would take a second book to cover all the ingredients
commonly used in the products above, I want to let you know about one,
formaldehyde, as an example. Formaldehyde is used frequently in both
cleaning and personal care products because it is a cheap
preservative. The following information is taken from a Material
Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) which , by law, must be supplied to anyone
who uses any chemical product in the workplace. The MSDS for
formaldehyde warns: Suspected carcinogen; may be fatal if inhaled,
swallowed, or absorbed through the skin; causes burns; inhalation can
cause spasms; edema (fluid buildup) of the larynx and bronchi, and
chemical pneumonitis, extremely destructive to the tissue of the
mucous membrane. All these symptoms and more are caused by
formaldehyde. Yet manufacturers can put formaldehyde in shampoo and
not list it as an ingredient! You will be shocked to learn that
formaldehyde is a common ingredient in baby shampoo, bubble bath,
deodorants, perfume, cologne, hair dye, mouthwash, toothpaste, hair
spray and many other personal care items.

Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen. If all cancers start with the
abnormal growth of just one cell, then why allow any amount into or
onto your body?

Toxic Chemicals and the Human Body

Your body is a very complex, very fragile system of chemical reactions
and electrical impulses. When you consider a single cell breathes,
uses energy, and releases waste much like your whole body does, you
can begin to understand how even small amounts of harmful chemicals
can affect the performance of the body's processes. Chemicals enter
the human body in three ways: ingestion, inhalation, and absorption.

Ingestion brings to mind the image of a young child opening the
cabinet under the sink and drinking something deadly. Well, each year
nearly 1.5 million accidental ingestions of poisons are reported to
U.S. Poison Control Centers. The majority of the victims are under the
age of twelve and have swallowed a cleaning or personal care product.
It amazes me how many deadly chemicals are stored under sinks or on
bathroom counters and bathtubs within easy reach of young children.

It may surprise you to learn that poisoning by inhalation is more
common, and can be much more harmful, than ingestion. When something
harmful is swallowed, the stomach actually begins breaking down and
neutralizing the poison before it is absorbed into the bloodstream.
However, when you inhale toxic fumes, the poisons go directly into the
bloodstream and quickly travel to organs like the brain, heart, liver
and kidneys. Many products give off toxic vapors which can irritate
your eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and give you headaches, muscle
aches, and sinus infections. The process of releasing vapors into the
air is called outgassing. Outgassing occurs even when a chemical is
tightly sealed in its container. If you doubt this, simply walk down
the cleaning aisle at your local grocery store, and notice how
strongly it smells of toxic vapors, even though the containers are
sealed tight.


Most people never guess this.

Finally, you need to realize the potential threat absorption poses.
One square centimeter of skin (less than the size of a dime), contains
3 million cells, four yards of nerves, one yard of blood vessels, and
one hundred sweat glands. We've all heard the ads for nicotine patches
and analgesic creams. These medicines work by being absorbed into the
bloodstream through the skin. Even some heart medicines are
administered through trans dermal (through the skin) patches. Any
chemical that touches the skin can be absorbed and spread throughout
the body. This can even happen when you come in contact with a surface
that was treated with a chemical days or even weeks earlier. I had no
idea that my children could be harmed by crawling across the kitchen
floor we had just cleaned. I thought that we were being conscientious,
not reckless.

Helping One Family at a Time...=)

If you're not interested in Melaleuca, you can make wonderful household cleaners with vinegar, baking soda, lemon, tea tree oil... There are many websites that will give you recipes (some in my links). This is obviously better for your family's health but also saves a lot of money if done wisely.

As far as beauty products go, Melaleuca's have parabens, so buy that elsewhere. Parabens are linked to reproductive and breast cancers and are in most beauty products. When you read the ingredients, look for propylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, etc. Stay the heck away from these. Also, they're known to dry out your skin. Since we're usually putting on lotion to moisturize it makes sense to avoid them for this reason, too. Many drugstore brands are made without parabens and your local health food store (or Super Supplements - they're only in WA and they don't sell on their website but I LOVE them!) carries many great products. Just be sure to still read the package - just because it says it's "All Natural" doesn't mean it is. Also, if there is not sodium laurel sulfate (a common skin irritant) included it will not lather like you're used to. It will still clean like anything else but it seems strange at first. Honestly, you may have to try a few brands before you find one you love, but it's worth it. Who wants cancer? Not me. ;-)

This website ranks beauty product brands and discusses common ingredients and why you'd want to avoid them. A great resource as you can search for the ones with the lowest risk rating and try that brand for yourself!

I love you all!


Ann said...

Veeeerrrryyy Interesting. Lately, I have been wondering about the safety of my daily moisturizers and etc. It's hard to know what is "real". So many natural brands really aren't natural. I am looking for a baby shampoo/wash that is ALL natural. Faith has SUPER sensitive skin. I tried Aveeno, but are they really a natural brand that uses good-for-you ingredients? Suggestions? Maybe Dani would know too...
As always, you're so helpful. Have you and Matt already found your home in Mt. Vernon? Justin and I couldn't get over the prices for the great houses in Mt. Vernon. I wish it wasn't so far away....otherwise I'd move tomorrow. :)

Carly Fay said...

I read an article the other day about how mainstream brands have been changing their packaging to seem more natural and "green", but all that's changed is the package (like The Body Shop - their packages look so nice and natural , but they're loaded with chemicals!). It takes homework to find out what's really true.

I checked and it looks like Aveeno isn't too bad, really! They scored 1.8 on a scale of 0-5, 5 being worst.
They consider that a "moderate" risk - same as Burt's Bees and a lot of popular "natural" brands. The best scores were for Tom's of Maine and Aubrey Organics, so maybe next time you need baby shampoo try them? Super Supplements has the best prices on stuff like that - there's one on 41st in Everett and one off 196th in Lynnwood. :-)

We haven't started aggressively looking for a house yet - we're waiting to get preapproved until we get a couple things taken care of. Mount Vernon is wonderful! I can't wait to move there. :-)

Sarah Fox said...

If you are looking for a completely chemical free, certified organic range of personal products go to my website at and look around. The company is called, Miessence, and it's the real deal. I found it when I was searching for something to use on my son's skin- he has eczema. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

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