Articles Posted in Toxic Chemicals

breast-cancer-1-3-300x215October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual health campaign that raises awareness and support for the 1 in 8 women in the United States that will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Bringing awareness to this disease is important because breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. Sadly, on average a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer every 2 minutes. Breast cancer also impacts men, though it is rare.

Breast cancer treatment and chances for survival can vary greatly depending on the type of breast cancer and when it is diagnosed. As the more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States today are well-aware, treatment may include surgery to remove the cancer (lumpectomy), to remove lymph nodes, or even to remove the breast entirely (mastectomy). Breast cancer treatment also frequently involves some combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy drug therapy, and immunotherapy.

Although death rates have decreased since 1989, nearly 42,000 women in the United States are expected to die in 2019 from breast cancer. The decrease in death rates is believed to be the result of advances in treatment and research, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness of the disease and its risk factors.

Since the ingredients in many traditional cosmetic products pose a health risk, it’s no wonder that consumers are searching for “natural” and “clean” products. In fact, in-house research at Sephora shows that 54% of itssephora-450966_1920-300x216 shoppers are looking for brands that are “free of” certain ingredients. As a result, new brands positioning themselves as “cleaner” alternatives to traditional cosmetics are exploding. “Natural” brands made up approximately one-quarter of all higher-end skincare sales in 2018, reflecting this consumer trend towards “clean” and “natural” products.

Cosmetics retailers are noticing the trend, and “natural” products are moving from specialty stores to the mainstream marketplace. Major stores like Target and CVS are expanding their “natural” cosmetics offerings and Sephora, already carrying an expansive line of “natural” beauty products, launched a clean beauty initiative, giving products that are free of toxic ingredients a special green label. That all sounds great! But, what do “natural,” “clean,” and “green” actually mean in the cosmetics world?

Nothing! No governing body regulates those terms, so a company can call a product “natural” or “clean” and define the term however it wants. And, there is a lot of incentive to do so, since 90% of consumers believe that natural beauty ingredients were better for them. Usually, “natural” means plant-based and “clean” means free of certain products, such as parabens, phthalates, or sulfates. However, nothing guarantees this, and some consumers are starting to catch on. For example, a recent class-action lawsuit  accuses Tarte Cosmetics of misleading consumers. The complaint alleges that Tarte’s “high-performance naturals” line includes synthetic ingredients and that the “natural” label misleads consumers into purchasing synthetic products. This is just one example of the cosmetics industry taking advantage of consumers’ fear of toxic chemicals.

clothesline-804812_1920-300x200The companies who sell plug-in air fresheners advertise how they make your house smell clean and fresh, and show you photos that make it appear as if the fresheners are bringing nature right into your home. What the commercials don’t say is that plug-in air fresheners may also be bathing your house in toxic chemicals that can harm your health.

One of the primary concerns with plug-in air fresheners is their use of phthalates. In fact, the National Resources Defense Council conducted a study that concluded that 86% of the air fresheners tested contain phthalates. Why is this a problem? Phthalates are disruptive to the body, alter hormone levels, interfere with testosterone, and are associated with reproductive abnormalities and birth defects.  They can also cause asthma and allergic reactions. And studies in animals show an alarming possibility of a link to cancer and liver and kidney toxicity.

But there is more. Air fresheners also typically contain formaldehyde, a toxic compound that is definitely linked to cancer of the nose and throat. Formaldehyde can also cause irritation of the throat and airways, potentially leading to infections and other respiratory ailments. In fact, a study in 2013 done by the International Journal of Public Health found that babies whose mothers used plug-in air fresheners during pregnancy were far more likely to have a serious lung infection than babies whose mothers did not.

still-life-1460067_1920-1024x683Each morning, before going about your day, do you spritz on your favorite perfume? Next time you do, look at the ingredient list. You’ll probably see the word “Fragrance.” Seems appropriate for a perfume, but what exactly is it? Turns out, a whole bunch of chemicals that could be toxic.

The word “Fragrance” on any product’s ingredient list refers to the mixture of natural and synthetic chemicals that give your products that pleasant smell. Even unscented products may list “Fragrance” as an ingredient, because chemical companies may need it to counteract foul-smelling ingredients to give the product a neutral odor. A 2010 study on perfumes and colognes found that, on average, there were 14 secret chemical ingredients in the fragrance cocktail that consumers do not see listed on the product label. Compared to the average 15 listed ingredients, almost half of the ingredients in your perfume are a secret.

Smells fishy, but why is that so bad? Well, to start, many of those secret ingredients are associated with allergic reactions. Fragrance is among the top five allergens in the world! The study discovered over 24 chemicals that could act as allergy triggers, possibly causing a variety of symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, rashes, coughing, vomiting, and skin irritation. Keeping in mind that these chemicals could trigger you and those around you, fragrances can pose a serious risk to a large number of people.

lipstick-791761_1920-1024x683Since ingredients in cosmetic products present numerous health risks, you have to wonder: how are cosmetic companies regulated? Well, the unfortunate truth is that they really aren’t.

The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for cosmetics under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), which has not been updated since 1938. The FDCA is concerned with “adulterated” or “misbranded” products. “Adulterated” products are those that contain any poisonous, deleterious, putrid, or decomposed substances, or those that have been prepared in unsanitary conditions. “Misbranded” products are those that are false or misleading or whose label does not contain the name and place of the manufacturer and the quantity of the contents. All that sounds good, so what’s the problem?

Well, the problem is what the FDA doesn’t have any meaningful way to regulate cosmetics. For instance, ingredients in cosmetic products do not need FDA approval before going on the market. Additionally, federal law does not require cosmetic companies to register or test their products for safety. In fact, the law doesn’t even require cosmetics companies to share any safety information with the FDA. As a result, the FDA has only restricted nine cosmetic chemicals for safety reasons.  That’s not many, considering cosmetics manufacturers use at least 88 chemicals that have been linked to cancer. The FDA also lacks authority to mandate a recall, as evidenced by its inability to force Claire’s to recall products that tested positive for asbestos.

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