Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shop Smart at the Drug Store

Almost 90 percent of the chemicals found in the products you slather onto your skin have never undergone any testing for toxicity. 60 percent contain products that are potential endocrine disrupters, says Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). It's a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C. One-third have ingredients that are likely carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). The Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate the safety of ingredients used in cosmetic products. They defer to an industry-funded panel called the Cosmetics Ingredient Review, which to date has examined a mere 12 percent of the ingredients you use to groom yourself.

"The European Union operates by the precautionary principle, where if there's enough evidence pointing to the toxicity of a substance, they can ban it rather than wait for the final bit of evidence," says Mark Schapiro, author of Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power. "The United States, on the other hand, takes no action until there is final scientific data."

About 600 U.S. companies have voluntarily pledged to reformulate globally to meet EU standards. Until they all do, you can protect yourself by steering clear of a few key potential carcinogens and endocrine disrupters. Here's a list of the five most ubiquitous toxins to avoid, according to the EWG and Gary Ginsberg.

Toxin: 1,4-Dioxane    It usually hides under the name "sodium laureth sulfate" but is found in 56 distinct ingredients, including polyethylene glycol (PEG). The EPA lists it as a probable human carcinogen.

Toxin: Phthalates   This is usually called "fragrance" (everything I use has this...) a term for as many as 7,000 ingredients that are not required to be listed on labels due to trade-secret laws. These endocrine disrupters are linked to liver and kidney damage, obesity, and damaged sperm.

Toxin: Formaldehyde   It's the same stuff that's in embalming fluid and cigarette smoke, and it's found on labels under half a dozen different names, including "methylaldehyde" and "formalin". It's a known immune system toxicant and respiratory irritant and a probable human carcinogen, according to the National Toxicology Program.

Chemical: Hydroquinone  A chemical lightening agent in hair dyes and skin creams. It's listed as an "active ingredient." This is a skin irritant, immune-system toxicant, and neurotoxin. It's also a possible carcinogen.

Chemical: Parabens  Identified on labels as any ingredient with the suffix "-paraben" (butylparaben for example). These are possible endocrine disrupters and carcinogens, and they may impair fertility.

Source: Men's Health

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