The Ugly Truth of “Toxins In, Toxins Out”
By Annie Leonard, Huffington Post
The labels of baby products are reassuring: “Gentle.” “Pure.” “Natural.” “Free of Harsh Ingredients.” “Recommended by Pediatricians.” “Dermatologists Approved.” And of course, “No More Tears.”
But when you turn the bottles around, get out a magnifying glass and read the fine print on the back (and get online to do some research) it’s a different story: sodium laureth sulfate, diazolidinyl urea, ceteareth-20, PEGs, quaternium-15 – all these are typically contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde or 1,4 dioxane.
Carcinogens in baby shampoo? Are you kidding me?
I asked some scientists what was going on, and what they told me was scary, and not just for our children. It turns out the average American bathroom is a minefield of toxic chemicals. Sunscreens, lipstick, moisturizer, shaving cream — many cosmetics and personal care products for babies, kids, moms and dads contain chemicals linked to cancer or other health problems like learning disabilities, asthma and even damaged sperm.
I got so mad about this I joined with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to make a new video, The Story of Cosmetics.
It turns out that while you and I can choose to buy the safer products made by responsible companies, the really important decisions don’t happen when we take a product off the shelf. What counts is when companies and government agencies decide what should be allowed on the shelves.
Here’s just some of what I learned while making The Story of Cosmetics:
- All those sudsy products like shampoos and body washes that contain sodium laureth sulfate have as a byproduct 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen that’s suspected to also cause kidney, nerve and respiratory problems. Unlike many other countries, the U.S. government does not limit formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, or most other hazardous substances in personal care products. As a result, independent lab tests found these chemicals in dozens of brands, including Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Sesame Street Bubble Bath. The companies claim that the chemical levels aren’t large enough to worry about, but I’d prefer not to have any cancer-causing chemicals in my daughter’s shampoo — or mine.
- Protecting yourself from the sun shouldn’t be dangerous. But a number of common sunscreen chemicals are linked to cancer, and may also disrupt estrogen and thyroid hormones. Well over half of all sunscreens contain the potential hormone disruptor oxybenzone that readily penetrates the skin and has been found in the bodies of 97% of Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control.
- Dabbing on a little bit of lipstick seems harmless enough – if you don’t mind a little lead. Tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found lead in almost two-thirds of top-selling red lipsticks. Highest lead levels were in top-selling brands L’Oreal, Maybelline and Cover Girl. Lead, a proven neurotoxin for which there is no safe level of exposure for children, was also found in every brand of kids’ face paints tested.
Read the full article on Huffington Post.