Don't run for the hills just yet; it's not all bad. Mostly, but not all.
It's baffling to hear that, in the United States, there are no government requirements for the testing of chemicals that go into cosmetics and personal health care products and very few regulations for the labeling of these products, especially when, according to Evans, "even minute amounts of a chemical can have negative effects; think a grain of salt in an Olympic-size swimming pool."
These chemicals do get into our bodies (blood and urine samples prove this) and avoidance is paramount, especially for small children and pregnant women. Children and fetuses are uniquely vulnerable to exposure due to their immature metabolisms and processing systems. In addition, the predilection of hand-to-mouth exposure among babies and toddlers increases ingestion rates.
What's at stake? According to CEHC, the worldwide rates for childhood disease (asthma, autism, obesity, leukemia, brain cancer, etc.) are increasing at alarming rates. Is there a connection to environmental toxins? The CEHC thinks so:
"The physical environment in which American children live, learn and play in has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. Since World War II, more than 80,000 new synthetic chemicals have been developed and are used in millions of consumer products, ranging from foods and food packaging to clothing, building materials, cleaning products, cosmetics, toys, and baby bottles."Evans offered several hints to limit exposure from personal care products. I'll share four:
- Opt for fragrance-free products. "'Fragrance' probably means the presence of phtalates, an endocrine-disrupting chemical which has toxic ramifications," Evans said. (The endocrine system, very simplistically, is our bodies' internal communication mechanism; like with a radio, we don't want any static.)
- Avoid triclosan, a chemical popular in antibacterial soaps. (Click here to read a post I wrote about the absolute superfluousness of antibacterial soaps; plain soap and water work great, without exposure to triclosan, another endocrine distruptor.)
- Stay clear of products containing parabens, chemicals that act as preservatives. Parabens mimic estrogen, which plays a role in breast cancer. (More and more companies are making products that are paraben-free.)
- Shun formaldehyde, which is found in nail polish, wrinkle-free shirts and other products. (Safer, formaldehyde-free nail polishes are available.)