When you hear the word “poison” what comes to mind? Arsenic? Lead? Cyanide?
If you’re like most people, you’re not thinking “personal care product.” But maybe you should be. Did you know that the average teen girl in the United States uses somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 personal care products each day? (The average guy uses closer to 10.) Personal care products include everything that you put on your skin that isn’t a prescribed medicine. Shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, sunscreen, lip balm, shaving cream, deodorant… the list goes on and on. Someone tested these products that we use every day, right? We wouldn’t be allowed to put toxic chemicals–poisons–on our bodies, right?
Wrong, unfortunately. Not only does the FDA not require companies to test their products for safety before they are sold, it also has little authority to remove unsafe products from the market. The Cosmetics, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA) makes the decisions, and they aren’t exactly objective. The consumer group Skin Deep and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that 87% of the ingredients in personal care products in the U.S. were not even tested by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, the industry’s internal safety panel. Another problem is that cosmetics and other personal care products often contain chemical contaminants that are not listed because they are present at very low levels. For example, sodium lauryl sulfate is a rather harsh cleanser that is often converted to the milder sodium laureth sulfate trhough the addition of a chemical called ethylene oxide. This process (called ethoxylation) produces small amounts of 1,4-dioxane, a chemical that causes cancer in animals and is also likely to cause cancer in humans. This is only one of the thousands of chemicals contained in the products you use each day. Take a closer look at the chemicals in your life with the Environmental Working Group, or get the report on your personal care products at the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/special/whatnottobuy/
And check out these books to learn more: