February 17, 2012
By Mike Barrett
“Have you done a heavy metal cleanse yet? No, we’re not talking about detoxing from Slayer – this is about lead and cadmium.” –KTRN
Cadmium and lead — two heavy metals that seemingly go hand and hand — are consistently being targeted as a threat to your health.
Higher blood levels of cadmium in females and higher blood levels of lead in males leads to infertility problems and delayed pregnancy, a new study has found.
These are the same contaminants now being found in common products like lipstick and low quality jewelry for children.
Lead, Cadmium Shown to Delay Pregnancy
The study, published online in Chemosphere, enrolled 501 couples from Michigan and Texas between 2005 to 2009. The women, aged 18-44, and the men, aged 18+, were followed for up to 1 year, or until pregnancy. Women were also asked to keep a journal to record monthly menstrual cycles and results of home pregnancy tests.
Using blood samples to find the participants’ blood concentration of the metals, the researchers found that the probability of pregnancy was 22 percent less for each increase in blood cadmium concentration for women. In men, the probability of conceiving was 16 percent less for each increase in blood lead concentration.
Our results indicate that men and women planning to have children should minimize their exposure to lead and cadmium…they can reduce cadmium exposure by avoiding cigarettes or by quitting if they are current smokers, especially if they intend to become pregnant in the future. Similarly, they can take steps to reduce their exposure to lead-based paints, which may occur in older housing, including during periods of home renovation,’ principal investigator Dr. Germaine Buck Louis, director of the division of epidemiology, statistics and prevention research at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said.
August 30, 2010
by Jill Richardson
Over the past several months, your bathroom has become the site of a major controversy. In fact, the controversy has been heating up for a while (Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database dates back to 2004), but recently, stories of dangerous ingredients in common personal care products like soap, toothpaste and lipstick have become even more common in the media. They’re even the subject of a bill in Congress, The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010. The inadequate regulation and dubious safety of cosmetics spurred Annie Leonard, famous for making The Story of Stuff, to come out with a new video last month, The Story of Cosmetics.
Numerous chemicals that are legally used in personal care products are untested, inadequately tested, or even proven harmful, but few are as widely used and as unnecessary as the endocrine disrupting chemicals triclosan (an ingredient in 75 percent of liquid hand soaps) and triclocarban (most commonly found in deodorant bar soaps). Scientists have recently found a number of new reasons why these chemicals should not be used in consumer products. In late July, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) brought a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), calling on the FDA to ban triclosan and triclocarban from soaps and body washes.
Together, triclosan and triclocarban are widely used in antibacterial soaps, body washes, deodorants, lip glosses, dog shampoos, shave gels, and even toothpastes. They are found in brands as familiar as Colgate, Dial, Lever 2000, and Vaseline. Although they have been used for several decades for their antibacterial and antifungal properties, studies and even the FDA recognize that they are no more effective at preventing disease than regular soap and water. In other words, they serve two real purposes: allowing companies to market personal care products as “antibacterial,” and contaminating the waste stream (and, ultimately, the environment).
In 2009, the EPA tested 84 sewage sludge samples from around the U.S. and found triclocarban in every sample and triclosan in 79 samples. Research published in 2007 also showed that triclocarban appears more frequently and in higher concentrations downstream of wastewater treatment plants, compared to upstream. That implies that these chemicals are not just entering wastewater treatment plants — they are also exiting the plants in sewage sludge and effluent. Triclocarban is rather persistent and does not break down for over a decade. Triclosan, on the other hand, does break down — into dioxins. And, alarmingly, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published data in July showing that the level of triclosan in Americans increased, on average, by more than 40 percent in a two-year period (from 2003-’04 to 2005-’06).
So what are the effects of these chemicals we are putting into our environment and even into our own bodies? Setting aside the dioxins — a class of chemicals that are well-documented carcinogens — both triclosan and triclocarban appear to be endocrine disruptors. Scientists say that triclocarban appears unique in that it doesn’t show endocrine activity by itself and instead enhances the expression of other hormones, such as androgens (male hormones like testosterone), estrogens and cortisol. In animal studies, triclosan also affects male and female sex hormones. Additionally, it interferes with thyroid hormone.
Obviously, a major route of exposure to triclosan and triclocarban are through personal care products. Their use in soaps can result in absorption through the skin into the bloodstream, and those who use toothpastes with triclosan are putting the chemical directly into their mouths, where it can remain present in saliva for hours. Additionally, a study published last month found that soybean plants in soil contaminated with triclosan and triclocarban uptake both chemicals into their roots, leaves and beans. This implies that crops fertilized with sewage sludge or irrigated with effluent from wastewater treatment plants, both of which are often contaminated with these chemicals, would result in food contaminated with triclosan and triclocarban. (It should also be noted that, since sewage sludge is sold in composts and fertilizer for home gardeners, proof that plants uptake a harmful chemical should not be the standard used to determine that chemical’s safety in sewage sludge. Home gardeners and their children would be exposed to any chemical in sludge sold commercially as they garden or play in the soil.)
NRDC cites both the recent news from the CDC about the increase in triclosan found in the bodies of Americans (or, more specifically, in their urine) and the study finding that soybeans uptake triclosan and triclocarban into the edible portions of the plant in its press release announcing its lawsuit. NRDC’s senior scientist Dr. Sarah Janssen said, “With no proven benefit and many red flags raised for harmful health impacts, the use of these so-called anti-microbials is an unnecessary and stupid use of toxic chemicals.”
On its Web site, the FDA says that triclosan “is not currently known to be hazardous to humans,” also providing the caveat that “several scientific studies have come out since the last time FDA reviewed this ingredient that merit further review.” Of course, that is not the same as saying that triclosan is definitely safe. The FDA continues by raising the question of whether triclosan “contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics” and concluding that, while triclosan may provide some benefit in toothpaste by preventing gingivitis, there is no other evidence that it provides any other benefits to health. The FDA has no similar page on triclocarban.
Currently, both the FDA and the EPA are taking a fresh look at triclosan, at the urging of Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. In April, Markey told the Washington Post, “The proliferation of triclosan in everyday consumer products is so enormous, it is literally in almost every type of product — most soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics, clothes and toys. It’s in our drinking water, it’s in our rivers and as a result, it’s in our bodies … I don’t think a lot of additional data has to be collected in order to make the simple decisions about children’s toys and soaps that people use. It clearly is something that creates a danger.”
Markey was also one of three members of Congress to introduce the Safe Cosmetics Act, along with Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, and Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc. The bill aims to phase out ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm that are currently used in cosmetics, improve labeling requirements for cosmetics, and to establish a list of cosmetic ingredients that are known to be safe. This would be an improvement to cosmetic safety in so many ways, since it’s currently voluntary for a manufacturer to ensure the products it sells don’t contain known carcinogens, neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors, and other harmful chemicals.
In fact, many chemicals used in cosmetics just aren’t tested for safety in the first place. The FDA leaves safety to the industry, which in turn sets voluntary standards for cosmetics companies and tests less than 20 percent of ingredients used in cosmetics for safety. Since 1938, the U.S. has banned only eight ingredients out of the 12,000 used in personal care products. In contrast, the E.U. bans over 1,300. That not only reinforces the fact that Americans are unnecessarily and legally exposed to harmful ingredients in their soaps, shampoos and lotions; it also shows that any company selling products in both the U.S. and Europe already knows how to produce its products free of the over 1,300 ingredients banned in the E.U. Surely it wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask them to uphold the same safety standard for their U.S. market.
Would adopting Europe’s standards or passing the Safe Cosmetics Act remove triclosan and triclocarban from our household products? Perhaps not. The list of chemicals banned in Europe includes heavy metals, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and even pharmaceuticals. Some of these chemicals aren’t used in U.S. personal care products anyway. But some are. Take, for example, dibutyl phthalate. You can find that one in any number of Sally Hansen or Cover Girl nail polishes. However, the list of chemicals banned in Europe does not include triclosan or triclocarban. (Nor does it include other chemicals commonly used in personal care products that are potentially harmful, like sodium lauryl sulfate or parabens.) And recall that the FDA, pending its review of triclosan’s safety, continues to allow its use and warn of no human safety hazards (even as it recognizes that “animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation.”
In other words, it seems that, while the passage of the Safe Cosmetics Act would improve the safety of personal care products in the U.S., it wouldn’t be a silver bullet. Consumer advocates would need to remain vigilant as the FDA formulates its lists of chemicals banned, restricted, and permitted in cosmetics. And, even if NRDC is successful in its lawsuit to ban triclosan and triclocarban, Americans will still be exposed to triclocarban, triclosan and their breakdown products (including dioxins) for years to come.
December 29, 2009
By E. Huff
A study published by Bionsen, a company in the United Kingdom that sells aluminum-free body products, found that the average woman applies 515 chemicals to her face a day. Makeup, perfumes, lotions, mascara, and other beauty products all contribute to the toxic brew that is causing health problems for many women.
The study revealed that the typical woman uses about 13 different beauty products a day. Most of these products contain at least 20 ingredients and additives, many of which can have a detrimental effect on the body and skin. Perfumes alone were found to contain up to 400 different ingredients.
Other products that were tested include lipstick, body lotions and mascara which contained an average of 30 ingredients each. Aside from aluminum, many of these products contain other harmful ingredients like synthetic dyes, fragrances, and parabens. When applied continually, the many beauty products that women use are exposing them to wide range of carcinogens.
The perpetual advent of new and innovative beauty products has led to a massive increase in product usage over the years. What was once a basic cleansing protocol has turned into a lifestyle of trying the latest and greatest products in an effort to maintain youthful beauty. As a result, women are exposed to more toxic carcinogens from beauty products than ever.
An Environmental Working Group (EWG) study from 2006 found that less than one percent of all cosmetic products are made from ingredients that have all undergone safety assessments. The great majority of products contain known carcinogens, reproductive toxins and various other harmful chemicals that cause serious diseases like cancer.
The EWG study found that the average person uses up to 25 personal care products per day. Among these, about 200 different chemicals will have been added to scent, preserve, synthesize and stabilize them for consumption. Many of these ingredients will end up causing hormonal disruption and immune dysfunction. In younger people, developmental problems are likely to result from excessive product use.
Makeup usage among younger girls has also increased. About 90 percent of 14-year-old girls now use makeup, according to a research study conducted by Mintel Internation Group in 2004. Sixty-three percent of girls as young as seven are now using lipstick, eyeliner, eye shadow and mascara.
As consumers are becoming more aware of many beauty product ingredients and the harm they are causing, product manufacturers are beginning to remove many of them from their formulations. Those concerned would do best to purchase only products that have minimal or no toxic ingredients. Greatly reducing one’s cosmetic arsenal is the next best option.
November 20, 2009
By Alastair Jamieson
A survey found women typically use up to 13 products, most of which contain more than 20 ingredients, including additives.
Perfumes contain an average cocktail of 250 ingredients, the study found, with some containing as many as 400.
The study, published by company Bionsen which makes deodorants it says are ‘aluminium free’, said some of the additive ingredients in other products have been linked to cancer, hormone problems, skin conditions and allergies.
Lipstick contains on average 33 ingredients, body lotion 32, mascara 29, and the purest product, hand moisturiser, 11, it found.
Charlotte Smith of Bionsen told The Sun: “Beauty regimes have changed dramatically from a simple ‘wash & go’ to daily fake tan applications, regular manicures, false lashes and hair extensions.
“The new ‘wonder treatments’ contain more chemicals to be able to achieve better results, which means that women are more at risk.”
Earlier research found one third of women under the age of 25 are regularly applying products meant for the over-40s, potentially exposing themselves to unnecessary damage through treatments designed for older skin.
Eczema patients who use products that are too greasy often suffer from a condition called occlusive folliculitis – sweat cannot escape from behind clogged pores, causing itchy red lumps.