Current regulations do not require companies which produce and market these products to list the ingredients. Under the current regulations companies insist that this is proprietary information and would be detrimental to their corporations, read bottom line, to do so. So not only are we paying to poison ourselves and those we love, we are not even allowed to know what compounds we are doing it with. Some companies are now offering up ingredient lists, mostly buried deep on their websites, but it is worth having a look.
We have all seen the hazardous warning labels on cleaners, but think about the last time you actually had a good look at the array of bottles in your cleaning supplies cupboard. If you have not yet made the switch to natural cleaners I challenge you to open up your cupboard. Send the kids out to play and take all your stuff out of the cupboard and lay it out on your table. Have a good look at the labels, how many different warnings are there? How often do you use these products? Do you wear gloves or masks when you use them? How many say to use only in a well ventilated environment? How many list the ingredients?
Those hazard labels are for short term acute exposures, there is no requirement for companies marketing these products to tell you what kind of effects low level long term exposure will do to you or what effect this might have on the development of your young children. Since they do not have to report this most companies do not even test for this. Nor are they required to report, and therefore test, the cumulative effects of these products.
It is entirely possible to have exposure to a dozen hazardous chemicals between getting up and leaving the house in the morning. There is very little testing being done as to the health effects of this continuous low level exposure. When we use these products in our homes they "off -gas". This is due to a nasty little group of chemicals known collectively as VOC's. Volatile organic compounds.
According to the United States Geological Survey, 2005: "Many VOC's are human - made chemicals... They are often compounds of fuels, solvents, hydraulic fluids, paint thinners, and dry-cleaning agents commonly used in urban settings. VOC contamination of drinking water supplies is a human.-health concern because many are toxic and are known or suspected human carcinogens"
VOC's form particulate matter and react with nitrogen oxides to form smog. In our homes these compounds linger in the air and we breathe them in. If your product has a fragrance you are breathing in VOC's. New car smell, new carpet, plastics, fresh paint and my personal pet peeve: air fresheners? All of these are off gassing VOC's. Research into VOC's has found an increase in leukemia and lymphoma rates linked to prolonged exposure of VOC's in the indoor environment.
If this blog does nothing but make you ditch those poisonous, toxic fragrances marketing has made you believe you need I will be a happy camper. As far as I am concerned, those behind Febreeze, Air Wick, Glade and anyone who pedals paraffin candles with synthetic fragrances should be taken out and shot.
As I said yesterday, I began actively trying to purge our home of toxic chemicals back in 1993. If you had asked me in 2003 I would have said we had a relatively toxic free house. Then came Gary's accident.
One of the most debilitating long term aspects of his injury is the environmental illness he has. He has no tolerance for VOC's. Just walking into any Canadian Tire store will give him a migraine for a day or two. The man can smell the school bus coming. This has become a major factor in our lives. It dictates where we live, everything that is brought into this house needs to be assessed. VOC's have become such a ubiquitous part of North American life style that even when we think we are culling them they are there.
Unfortunately, VOC's are not the only culprit in this chemical warfare. The chemicals in these products absorbed through the skin and ingested as residues on our dishes and through household dust.
My top three avoid at all costs ingredients are:
This product really pushes my buttons. Triclosan is the antibacterial component in the plethora of antibacterial products on the market today. It is toxic, the European Union lists it as an irritant to the eyes and skin. It is a suspected endocrine disruptor and is very toxic when it enters aquatic environments. It can also react with other compounds in the environment to form dioxins. Dioxins are bio accumulators, meaning they persist and concentrate as they move through the food chain, and are a known carcinogen. They are also suspected in the rise of antibiotic resistant microbes. The Canadian Medical Association has called for a ban on all antibacterial products.
Triclosan is found in dish soaps, disinfectants, sanitizers, deodorants, liquid hand soaps, laundry soap, tissues, mouthwash, toothpaste and antiseptic ointments. It is also impregnated into plastics for garbage bags, children's toys, babies teethers, high chairs, mattresses, toilet seats, clothing and furniture.
Fragrance and Parfume. Such a harmless sounding words. There are currently over 3000 chemicals which come under the heading of fragrance, most of them are petroleum based. Even products labeled as scent free usually contain fragrances, but they also contain parfume. Parfume is a nasty little beast. it's only function is to inhibit our brains ability to detect scent. Think about that for a minute. Most of the compounds included in the fragrance category have little testing. Manufacturers argue that since there is such small amounts in each product they pose no health concerns. Fragrances, and lets be specific, synthetic fragrances, are the most common trigger of asthma and allergic symptoms. A 2002 study on fragrance compounds suggested that exposure to perfumes and colognes can; "exacerbate asthma, and perhaps even contribute to its development in children."There have been several laboratory studies which indicate a link between individual fragrance compounds and cancer as well as neurotoxicity. Environment Canada has categorized several synthetic musks as bioaccumulative, and/or toxic, and persistent and to human health. Measurable amounts of synthetic musk has been found in the fatty tissues of fish in the Great Lakes, amounts of these compounds found in the sediments of the lakes are also rising. Fragrance and Parfume are found in almost everything. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) These 2 compounds are why I began making my own soap and consequently sent me on the path to becoming a herbalist. There is a lot of things wrong with these compounds, however there is also a lot of erroneous information on the Internet about these compounds. Lets have a look. SLS and SLES are found in anything that makes suds. They are degreasers found in everything form baby wash to floor cleaners marketed to automobile garages, obviously in different concentrations. Both compounds are well known skin irritants. They are damaging to skin and mucous membranes. They have been found to strip the outer layers of skin and mucosa cells. Especially the mucosa of the mouth when SLS and SLES are present in toothpaste and mouthwash. It is important to remember that concentrations in household cleaning products will be higher that in cosmetic/ personal care products. The link to cancer and long term damage is less clear. Most likely because there have been few studies to look at the effects. What is well documented is the presence of known carcinogens 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide in SLES, and nitrosamines in SLS 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide are a result of of the manufacturing process used to create SLES. As these carcinogenic compounds are byproducts of the chemical reaction, under law they are not ingredients. So even though they are known carcinogens and present in your baby shampoo, they do not need to be listed as ingredients. The Center for Disease Control describes 1,4 Dioxane as"probably carcinogenic to humans," toxic to the brain and central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. It is also a leading groundwater contaminant." Nitrosamines are carcinogens which cause your body to absorb nitrates, which are known to be carcinogenic. The nitrosamines are a result of contamination of the SLS during manufacture. The contamination can be one or many of multiple of chemicals. Given the vast number of products containing SLS there are literally millions of possible combinations of chemicals which could result in the presence of nitrosamines. The manufacturers will tell you that the amounts are so small they do not pose a health risk, however we have to consider the cumulative effects of all the products our bodies are exposed to on a daily basis. Ultimately, if there are alternatives, why would you choose to play chemical roulette with the health of your family? I know this has been a long post and somewhat of an information overload scenario. This is a subject I am passionate about, and I tend to get a little 'preachy' when I stand on my virtual soapbox. Take some time to read, or re-read the information I hope it is a jumping off point for you to do your own research. As always the comments and my email are open for questions. I don't know if I will have a post tomorrow. I had one written but it is lost in this ancient computer of mine. I have to decorate the hall for the Digby County 4H awards dinner tomorrow. I think I also have to take Miss Avril to visit the breeding buck tomorrow and I believe it is the day to go and pick up feed. I will make every attempt to get the post out for you! Have a great day everyone!