Environmental Health Perspectives, 2012. Jul;120(7): 935-43.
In this study, the authors measured chemicals in cosmetics, personal care products, cleaners, sunscreens, and vinyl products, to determine what they contain in the way of asthma-causing chemicals and endocrine disruptors (chemicals that mess up your hormones). They also studied labels to see if such information could help consumers choose safe products.
QUOTE: “Consumers should be able to avoid some target chemicals – synthetic fragrances, BPA, and regulated active ingredients – using purchasing criteria. More complete product labeling would enable consumers to avoid the rest of the target chemicals.”
SHULA: I’m glad we “should be able” to avoid such chemicals. Take your magnifying glasses shopping with you. In a pinch, take a picture of the ingredients with your phone and then enlarge. Oh … and do try and plow through some of the 9 pages and complex charts of the study linked at the bottom to get some idea of what you are supposed to try to avoid. I’ll summarize main points below.
These should be listed on labels, which should help you avoid them:
- Fragrance or Perfume (not made of flowers any more)
- Triclocarban, Triclosan (antibiotics)
Phthalates usually don’t appear on the labels. They are used in plastics, as solvents in cosmetics and perfume, and in pesticides. The authors did find the word “phthalic …” on a nail polish.
BPA (Bisphenol A) was not on any labels, but was in lots of products. It was not found in “alternative samples” of shampoo, lotions, soaps, and nail polish – so buy yours at a health food store or Whole Foods Market-type store. However, even the alternative sunscreens contained BPA, so just avoid getting too much sun and wear a hat.
Triclocarban and Triclosan are antibiotics used in soaps, toothpaste, lipstick and face cleansers. They may be listed on labels, at least when used in higher amounts. They were not detected in the “alternative” products.
MEA (Monoethanolamine) and DEA (diethanolamine) are emulsifiers in shampoo, cleaners, detergents, dryer sheets, face lotion, tile cleaner, mascara, polishes … They were never listed but were detected even in the “alternatives.” Oy.
Alkylphenols cannot be avoided by reading product labels, so I don’t even want to talk about ’em. See page 940 of the study if you want to know.
Glycol ethers (with a variety of names) are generally not listed even though they are associated with low sperm mobility, asthma, and allergies.
Cyclosiloxanes … also not labeled. Good luck avoiding all these “targeted chemicals.”
UV Filters – all those compounds added to stuff to protect our skin from UV rays – act as estrogens (hormones). Sometimes the sunscreens or shaving creams are labeled, but often not – and they are in the alternative brands as well, although they are apparently labeled in those products that use a higher amount.
I have added some highlights to the article to make it easier to find stuff — but make sure to have some reading glasses handy. If you’ve never needed reading glasses before, you may need them now.