cosmetics health hazards

Cosmetics health hazards:
Before you use that next bottle of shampoo, deodorant or toothpaste, you may want to look inside...

Did you shower and shampoo today with petrochemicals? Did you cleanse your face and style your hair with ingredients known to cause cancer and birth defects? Chances are that the answer is "yes," whether you know it or not.

The reality is that many of the brand-name products we use contain ingredients known to cause harm. How can this be? Because the manufacturers are policing themselves. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the main U.S. agency involved in personal products, the FDA's own web site states clearly, "Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing."

"Cosmetics" covers a lot of ground

Everyone who bathes, washes their hair or brushes their teeth -- including children -- is affected by this issue, because "cosmetics" covers a lot of ground. To the FDA, cosmetics include toothpaste, shampoo, deodorants, moisturizers, perfumes, lipsticks, facial make-up and hair dyes.

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Thanks to a growing consumer safety movement, it's possible to identify safer products. The Environmental Working Group runs an Internet-based directory that rates thousands of products at

We apply an average of 126 unique ingredients to our skin every day, according to EWG. Here are some of the most common dangers:

  • Phthalates. Industrial chemicals used in shampoos and hair sprays. They disrupt the hormone system, and are classed as water and air pollutants by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Oxybenzone. Widely used in sunscreens, lip balms, lipsticks and moisturizers, this chemical has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption and cell damage according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
  • Triclosan. This is a pesticide that disrupts hormones. It's found in liquid hand soap and toothpaste, as well as children's toys.
  • Ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. Favorites in shampoo, sunscreen and moisturizer, plus motor vehicle antifreeze and airplane wing de-icer. They've been linked with skin irritation, birth defects and organ damage.
  • Parabens. Members of this chemical family are widely used as preservatives in thousands of cosmetics. They can disrupt the hormone system.

While it's impractical to avoid contact with all toxins, we can choose products that are safer.

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Join our discussions:
Showing comment(s)
May 18, 2016
It's interesting to see phthalates mentioned in your article. It seems like they've been in the news a lot lately since they've now also been connected with fast food diets.
Alice at
May 20, 2016
Thank you for your comment Sherri. I have read about that recent finding, as well.

Apparently, it's not only how fast food and convenience foods are processed but some of the phthalates may also be making it into the food because of the plastics used in food storage and serving.

According to this National Institutes of Health article, grain items (such as breads, noodles, cakes, etc.) and meats may be the most significant contributors.

The experts quoted in the article pointed out that the elevated phthalates levels found in people who had eaten fast food most often were still below acceptable levels set by regulations, but they suggested that pregnant women and women who may get pregnant should cut back on fast food meals or avoid them entirely.

I'm not a medical expert but it seems like this finding should be of special concern for all children, as well since the US banned the use of at least six types of phthalates in children's toys and child care articles way back in 2008.
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