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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Personal care or personal hazard?

Could it be that the products we use to clean, soothe, and beautify ourselves to remain healthy as well as to feel good, have just the opposite effect?

Recent research has shown that many of the personal care products on the market contain toxic or unregulated ingredients, which could pose serious health risks to humans and the environment. A very small number of these potentially hazardous ingredients are actually assessed for safety by the cosmetic industry’s review panel. The review process allows the use of a large variety of ingredients without regard for the effect they may have on our health and on the environment.

According to the Environmental Working Group - EWG, a non-profit research and advocacy organization, in a study called “Skin Deep” they reveal that many personal care products found in our own bathrooms, and cosmetic bags are in fact formulated with ingredients that may be linked to serious health concerns. For example, an ingredient called Triclosan may potentially contain impurities linked to cancer, and immune system damage. The ingredient in question was found in 196 personal care products based on the EWG website including the following five commonly used personal care products found in households:

1) Dial brand antibacterial hand soap with vitamin E moisture beads
2) Colgate Total 12 hour multi protection toothpaste fresh stripe
3) Vagisil Foaming Wash – Summer Breeze
4) Neutrogena Body Wash
5) L’Oreal Hydra Fresh Foaming Face Wash

A study conducted in 2005 by the World Wildlife Fund, testing the blood of 13 European families and 3 generations of women has found 73 man-made hazardous chemicals present in their blood. A number of these chemicals were found in personal care and household products that can be varied in their toxicity and perhaps cumulative. Women who apply sunscreen, a moisturizer or beauty products such as blush, eye shadow and lipstick, risk even greater levels of toxic exposure. In fact, even if you avoid products with known harmful ingredients you may still be at risk. By washing these products down the drain, users contaminate waste water systems posing risks to wildlife, degrading soil and air quality, creating new pathways for these chemicals to enter our bodies.

Personal care and hygiene products containing inorganic and non-biodegradable chemicals found in our homes, exposes our health and the environment to risk. It has become a vicious toxic cycle that can persist in our bodies and the environment for years, even decades. However, our choices, based on our knowledge and dedication to improving the quality of life, can help break this cycle; by rewarding the manufacturers who make the conscious decision to keep the chemicals out of their products and avoiding those that do not.

by Diane Cimetta
Greener Magazine

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