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Monday, January 11, 2010

Chemically Speaking, Part 1: In the Name of Beauty

So, not that we do not have enough to think about with our diet, exercise, and getting all the baby stuff ready for the little one's arrival...but something else to think about is all the chemicals that we use on a daily basis that we inhale, put on our skin, and consume in our foods. I don't know about you, but I think I want my baby to be as protected as possible from all the junk that is out in the atmosphere. We do filter some of the toxins out in the world, but unfortunately, we do not filter everything 100%. A study done by the Environmental Working Group found 232 known chemicals in the umbilical cords of babies between Dec 2007-June 2008. Ewwwww.

Okay, so what is a pregnant girl to do? I know everyone says "you can't control everything"...and honestly I know that and I do not pretend to try. There are environmental toxins out in the air (pollution) that I have very little power over. However, there are a few ways to significantly reduce the amount of chemicals that enter your body and I will cover them in my next few blog postings:
  1. Pay attention to the ingredients in your beauty products
  2. Eat organically (or from local farms that use as little chemicals as possible)
  3. Change up some of your cleaning supplies
Part 1: Beauty Products
Unfortunately, beauty products are more than skin deep. Skin is the largest organ of the body and absorbs many toxins found within the body. 60% of what is put ON your skin is absorbed into the blood stream

The average person uses nine personal care products a day. Since the cosmetic/toiletries industry is not well regulated, many of the ingredients are not tested for toxicity (especially healthy doses for growing fetuses). Once and a while exposure may be fine, but the products that are used most often are the ones you should focus on first. I started with deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotions, since I used them the most often. But you should also check your make-up if you wear it daily.

Below is a list of chemicals that are best avoided by anyone, including the pregnant variety. I took it directly from "Dirty Dozen" an article on The Dirty Dozen Chemicals in Cosmetics by Catherine Zandonella September 18, 2007

1. Antibacterials: Overuse of antibacterials can prevent them from effectively fighting disease-causing germs like E. coli and Salmonella enterica. Triclosan, widely used in soaps, toothpastes and deodorants, has been detected in breast milk, and one recent study found that it interferes with testosterone activity in cells. Numerous studies have found that washing with regular soap and warm water is just as effective at killing germs.

2. Coal Tar: Coal tar is a known human carcinogen used as an active ingredient in dandruff shampoos and anti-itch creams. Coal-tar-based dyes such as FD&C Blue 1, used in toothpastes, and FD&C Green 3, used in mouthwash, have been found to be carcinogenic in animal studies when injected under skin.

3. Diethanolamine (DEA): DEA is a possible hormone disruptor, has shown limited evidence of carcinogenicity and depletes the body of choline needed for fetal brain development. DEA can also show up as a contaminant in products containing related chemicals, such as cocamide DEA.

4. 1,4-Dioxane: 1,4 -Dioxane is a known animal carcinogen and a possible human carcinogen that can appear as a contaminant in products containing sodium laureth sulfate and ingredients that include the terms "PEG," "-xynol," "ceteareth," "oleth" and most other ethoxylated "eth" ingredients. The FDA monitors products for the contaminant but has not yet recommended an exposure limit. Manufacturers can remove dioxane through a process called vacuum stripping, but a small amount usually remains. A 2007 survey by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that most children's bath products contain 10 parts per million or less, but an earlier 2001 survey by the FDA found levels in excess of 85 parts per million.

5. Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde has a long list of adverse health effects, including immune-system toxicity, respiratory irritation and cancer in humans. Yet it still turns up in baby bath soap, nail polish, eyelash adhesive and hair dyes as a contaminant or break-down product of diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea and quaternium compounds.

6. Fragrance: The catchall term "fragrance" may mask phthalates, which act as endocrine disruptors and may cause obesity and reproductive and developmental harm. Avoid phthalates by selecting essential-oil fragrances instead.

7. Lead and Mercury: Neurotoxic lead may appear in products as a naturally occurring contaminant of hydrated silica, one of the ingredients in toothpaste, and lead acetate is found in some brands of men's hair dye. Brain-damaging mercury, found in the preservative thimerosol, is used in some mascaras.

8. Nanoparticles: Tiny nanoparticles, which may penetrate the skin and damage brain cells, are appearing in an increasing number of cosmetics and sunscreens. Most problematic are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, used in sunscreens to make them transparent. When possible, look for sunscreens containing particles of these ingredients larger than 100 nanometers. You'll most likely need to call companies to confirm sizes, but a few manufacturers have started advertising their lack of nanoparticle-sized ingredients on labels.

9. Parabens(methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl-, isobutyl-): Parabens, which have weak estrogenic effects, are common preservatives that appear in a wide array of toiletries. A study found that butyl paraben damaged sperm formation in the testes of mice, and a relative, sodium methylparaben, is banned in cosmetics by the E.U. Parabens break down in the body into p-hydroxybenzoic acid, which has estrogenic activity in human breast-cancer cell cultures.

10. Petroleum Distillates: Possible human carcinogens, petroleum distillates are prohibited or restricted for use in cosmetics in the E.U. but are found in several U.S. brands of mascara, foot-odor powder and other products. Look out for the terms "petroleum" or "liquid paraffin."

11. P-Phenylenediamine: Commonly found in hair dyes, this chemical can damage the nervous system, cause lung irritation and cause severe allergic reactions. It's also listed as 1,4-Benzenediamine; p-Phenyldiamine and 4-Phenylenediamine.12. HydroquinoneFound in skin lighteners and facial moisturizers, hydroquinone is neurotoxic and allergenic, and there's limited evidence that it may cause cancer in lab animals. It may also appear as an impurity not listed on ingredients labels.

12. Hydroquinone: Found in skin lighteners and facial moisturizers, hydroquinone is neurotoxic and allergenic, and there's limited evidence that it may cause cancer in lab animals. It may also appear as an impurity not listed on ingredients labels.

If that wasn't exhaustive enough, also steer clear of the following:
  • Phthalate—diethyl-, diethyl hexyl-, dibutyl-
  • Silicones (si--, tri--, dimethicone)
  • Sodium laurel sulfate (SLS)
  • Tolvene
  • Glycol Ethers

While it sounds daunting, it is not as bad as you think. I found the following work for me, that I picked up at Whole Foods--just to help you get started:

  • Shampoo and conditioner and shower gels: Whole Foods 365 brand . I like the grapefruit, but they have a lot of other flavors. The awesome news about these, is that they are great AND they don't break the bank.
  • Deodorant: Lafe's Roll-on Liquid. I like the fresh scent. I tried a lot of others--and at the end of the day I was stinky (not to mention they went on sticky). This is the brand I recommend to all my clients, and all of them have agreed. I was referred to this one from both my cousin's wife and the woman working at Whole Foods.
  • Toothpaste: I find Tom's of Maine to be fine. My son will even use it too!
  • Lotion: I just stopped buying it. Instead, I use coconut oil. I have heard sesame and olive oil also work well.
  • Chapstick: Burt's Bees
  • Make-up: I don't wear make-up more than once every 3-6 months, so I put it as a lower priority in my quest for natural products. I have heard that Aveda and Jurlique are supposed to be all-natural.

I hope you found this enlightening and helpful. I know this was one of the last things I switched over to natural, after spending a fair bit of time working on my foods, mostly because I was a little intimidated. But happy hunting and go slow--switching out 1-2 products at a time, and you will find what works for you!

Stay beautiful!

In health and wellness,


1 comment:

  1. California just released (12/15/09) a study on residential indoor air quality. 98% of the homes exceeded the State's recommended 8-hour exposure level.

    Everyone, especially those preparing for a baby should test their home for formaldehyde to see how big of a problem they have. Sierra Club used passive acs badges to measure formaldehyde and expose the now infamous FEMA trailers. Simply slide the outter cover down exposing a series of holes. Hang in the center of area to be tested. Wait 24-hours, slide closed and mail. Best $39 including lab analysis that you are likely to spend.

    The largest source of formaldehyde is nicely hidden in the walls in the form of fiberglass insulation. Other large sources are laminate flooring, furniture. Although personal care products are an issue the exposure period is very breif compared to what is in the indoor air.