A couple of days ago, I met a friend for coffee. We were talking about cosmetics, and she happened to mention a study of 2,016 British women released by UK deodorant-maker Bionsen last fall. The findings concluded that British women apply over 515 toxins to their bodies daily. I’m guessing the count for American women is pretty similar. (Read what Reuters had to say about the study here: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5AI3M820091119 .)
Toxins are defined as substances that are harmful to living organisms. They run the gamut from heavy medals such as lead and aluminum to chemical toxins like tobacco and alcohol to microbial and environmental toxins. The list keeps on growing. And, unless you’ve been living under that proverbial rock, you know that toxins have been linked to cancer, allergies, birth defects and other health issues.
As for personal care products, some of the toxins you might find lurking in your bathrooms are mercury in eye drops and mascara, formaldehyde in baby shampoo, coal tar in dandruff shampoo, and triethanolamine or TEA in shaving cream. It could be that the perfume you spritz on for a night out contains up to 400 toxins and the moisturizer you slap on after a shower has over 30 different chemicals in it.
The sad thing is, right now, manufacturers of personal care products can put anything they want into their products and aren’t required to list every ingredient on their labels.
But, there’s good news. In July 2010, the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (H.R. 5786) was introduced by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc. If the bill passes, it will give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful substances; it also requires manufacturers of these products to list all of the ingredients on their labels.
Meanwhile, you might want to start reading labels (even realizing that 100% of the ingredients may not currently be listed) on your personal care products, same as you do with food.
For more information on toxins, visit the websites for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. Another resource is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database which ranks the safety of some personal care products.
As with any purchases you make, be an informed, educated consumer.