The last time we talked I shared five empowering things you can do today to start choosing cleaner personal care products. What we did not discuss was why. Why do you want to choose safer products? Why should you take the time to educate yourself on this issue? In short, why should you care?
A Little History
Throughout the early years of the 20th century, people were slowly beginning to see the effects of dangerous chemicals found in food, personal care products and cosmetics. Extreme experiments, as in the case of the Poison Squad, exhibits like the “Chamber of Horrors” and massive death tolls from products like elixir sulfanilamide illustrated the depth of deception in the food and consumer products industry.
Public outrage, advocacy work and one of the largest product recalls to date led President Roosevelt to create the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938. While some consumer protection was better than none at all, the majority of the act was geared toward the food industry, leaving only one and a half pages of legislation for personal care products.
These one and a half pages of legislation are still the only thing that protects consumers today, 82 years later.
After World War II, Americans became enamored with learning how to live their best lives through the art of chemistry. Since then, we have introduced more than 85,000 chemicals into the marketplace — and more every day — with less than 10% tested for their effects on human health.
In Europe, more than 1,400 ingredients are banned. Canada has banned more than 600. Here in the U.S., the list of banned ingredients tops out at 30.
Effects on Human Health
Our health is becoming largely impacted by the chemicals we surround ourselves with every day. Effects of exposure to toxins are not immediately apparent, but many conditions are caused and exacerbated by long-term and repeated exposure. A few of the major health issues linked to environmental toxins found in personal care products are as follows:
Hormone/endocrine disruption effects can include developmental malformations, interference with reproduction, increased cancer risk and disturbances in the immune and nervous system function.
Cancer needs no introduction as we have all been impacted by this at some point; however, known carcinogens like formaldehyde, coal tar and PEG compounds are still commonly found in many products on the market.
Neurotoxicity occurs when the exposure to natural or manmade toxic substances alters the normal activity of the nervous system. Effects can include loss of memory, vision and/or intellect, headaches, cognitive and behavioral problems and sexual dysfunction.
Developmental disorders in babies and children, including difficulty accomplishing early developmental tasks such as language, communication, socialization and motor skills, are largely related to neurotoxicity as well.
Allergic reactions and/or irritations from ingredients like retinol, sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate include rashes, hives, swelling, wheezing, tightness in the chest, blistered or peeling skin without a fever and more.
One Last Note
It is important to reiterate that with most ingredients the effects are not immediate, but bioaccumulation due to repeated long-term exposure is where we see the impact of toxic chemicals. When our bodies begin to absorb toxins faster than we can expel them, bioaccumulation occurs.
This is not a scare tactic. Rather, when we know better, we can do better! Knowing the why will simply help us to take action. Following the five simple steps will already set you ahead of the game and make significant headway in your quest for a cleaner, healthier life.
Heather Disarro is the author and creator of Heather’s Dish, a blog focused on clean living, food and fitness, and she is the social media boss of Content Titan, a digital content powerhouse. Heather loves spending time with her husband and two kids doing almost anything outdoors, eating good food and laughing. Always laughing.