Manataka American Indian Council
Is your bubble bath safe?
By Pat Thomas
Take a long look at bubble bath, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, deodorants,
shampoo, hairspray, shaving cream and foam
Pat Thomas makes sense of the often impenetrable labels, and reveals the ingredients' potentially devastating effects on our health.
These days, most of us don't use soap in the shower or bath. Instead, we lather up with bath foams, shower gels, facial washes and scrubs, all of which rely on complex detergents ? often the same ones used in heavy industry ? to wash away simple dirt.
The difference between soap and detergent is like the difference between cotton and nylon. Soap and cotton are produced from natural products by relatively small modification.
Detergents and nylon are produced entirely in a chemical factory. There is no difference between the detergents in your household cleaning products and those you use in your bath. It is simply a matter of concentration.
Bubble baths, which are highly fragranced, have the greatest potential to cause skin irritation, allergic skin reactions and headaches. In the U.S., they carry a health warning alerting users to the possibility of skin irritation and urinary tract infections.
Body washes essentially contain the same basic ingredients as bubble bath. Soaking in any bath product will prolong its contact with your skin, increasing the risk that chemicals will be absorbed. Both bubble baths and shower gels have the potential to penetrate the skin and lungs.
Your bubble bath is likely to contain potentially irritating detergents like sodium laureth sulphate and cocami-dopropyl betaine (the latter is also a penetration enhancer, allowing other chemicals to be more easily absorbed); preservatives such as tetrasodium EDTA, a potential irritant; and methylchloroisothiazolinone (both potential mutagens ? substances that speed up gene mutation).
If it contains cocamide EDTA (or similar compounds ending with DEA, TEA or MEA) along with formaldehyde-forming substances such as bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazo-lidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea and quaternium-15, it is likely to contain cancer-causing nitrosamines. Studies show up to 93 per cent of toiletries and cosmetics contain these compounds.
Avoid bubble baths altogether and limit your use of shower gels. Stick to plain old soap instead. Vegetable oil and glycerine soaps are best. They foam beautifully and are made from enriching oils such as coconut, hemp and olive. They are usually unfragranced or scented with essential oils (check the label).
The problems of dental decay and gum disease are very real and affect more than just the mouth. Gum disease is strongly linked to other conditions such as heart disease. Indeed, your risk of developing heart disease is higher if you have poor oral health than if you smoke and have high cholesterol.
Poor oral health also raises your risk of stroke, osteoporosis, respiratory diseases and diabetes. Several of the 'active' ingredients in toothpaste are worrying. Widely used industrial-strength detergent sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) is a suspected gastrointestinal or liver poison.
There is also concern that by stripping away the protective mucous membrane of the mouth, SLS could increase the incidence of mouth ulcers, and may be involved in an increased risk of oral cancer.
Triclosan is one of the most common antibacterial agents used in toothpaste. There is evidence that it can help reduce plaque build-up but, like SLS, triclosan is an irritant. The widespread use of triclosan is associated with a rise in 'super bugs' ? bacteria that are resistant to many kinds of antiseptics and antibiotics.
Abrasives commonly found in toothpaste, such as silica, are also potentially harmful. Fine granules can build up under the surface of the gums, causing granulomas ? small nodules of inflamed tissue, which may leave gums vulnerable to infection.
But the most controversial ingredient in toothpaste is fluoride. Many of us buy fluoride-containing toothpastes in the belief they will protect our teeth. There is, according to Pat Thomas, little convincing scientific evidence to support this.
She says fluoride is in fact a poison. There is enough fluoride in the average-sized tube of family toothpaste to kill a small child if ingested. For this reason, she says, the American Food and Drug Administration and the Swedish National Food Administration require toothpaste containing fluoride to be labeled with a 'poison' warning.
She says fluoride can cause allergic-type reactions, and is a suspect in a host of illnesses, including bone problems, diabetes, thyroid malfunction and mental impairment.
Young children have a tendency to swallow toothpaste ? and it is for this reason that family toothpastes (which generally contain the highest amounts of fluoride) are considered unsuitable for children under eight.
Remember, it's not the paste, but the brush that cleans your teeth. Equally, it's not how hard you brush, but how long and how thoroughly. You should spend at least a minute gently but thoroughly brushing your teeth every morning and night.
Choose a good quality, soft-medium brush h with lots of filaments packed tightly together. Replace it regularly at the first sign of wear. If you want to use toothpaste ? use a low fluoride paste (around 500 parts per million) and use less. A pea-sized blob is all you need.
If you can't find a low fluoride paste, look at children's brands ? there's nothing, apart from aesthetics, to stop you using one.
Some holistic dentists have expressed concerns that modern denta al floss may be contaminated with m mercury-containing antiseptics. Some e flosses are coated with flavor-derived from petrochemicals and waxes s of petrochemical origin.
An American doctor, Hulda Clark, has gone as far as to recommend flossing is best done with a two or four-pound monofilament fishing line (doubled and twisted together for strength). If you don't fancy this, just be careful about the floss you choose ? avoid coloring or flavoring.
These claim to fight plaque, strengthen teeth, fight tooth decay and freshen breath ? in addition to killing germs. The result is a complex mixture of chemicals that, in the long run, could do more harm than good.
Many also contain alcohol. Using an alcohol-containing mouthwash is associated with an increased risk of throat and mouth cancers.
This is because alcohol is drying, changes the pH of the mouth and strips away the protective mucous membrane in the mouth and throat.
Make your own mouthwash by adding a couple of drops of peppermint oil or sage tincture to a cup of water.
Antiperspirants and deodorants typically contain moisturizers, solvents and preservatives (such as parabens, which can cause skin irritation and can be a source of weak estrogens, which may have a detrimental effect in the long-term).
They contain synthetic perfumes and antibacterial agents such as triclosan (which can be absorbed through the skin and has caused liver damage in animal experiments).
Researchers at the University of Reading recently found traces of parabens in every single tumor sample taken from a small group of women with breast cancer.
The aluminum content of antiperspirants is also a major concern. No one knows exactly how aluminum compounds work to reduce underarm wetness. What is known, however, is that aluminum is absorbed through the skin.
The recently acknowledged link between Alzheimer's disease and aluminum has raised a furious debate over the safety of putting aluminum compounds into deodorants.
Another concern is the potential link between aluminum and breast cancer. A study looking at the incidence of breast cancer among 400 American women suggests that a combination of underarm shaving and deodorant use may allow chemicals to seep into breast tissue.
In the study, women who shaved three times a week and applied deodorant at least twice a week were almost 15 years younger when diagnosed with cancer than women who did neither.
Avoid aerosols, which surround you with a cloud of toxic chemicals. Switch to a solid or stick deodorant instead. This is less likely to aid the absorption of ingredients into the skin. Never apply antiperspirants or deodorants to broken or newly-shaved skin.
Many health food shops sell aluminum-free deodorants based on plant extracts or mineral salts, both of which can be very effective.
Cheap or expensive, modern shampoos are usually a mixture of the same handful of detergents. The choice of detergents used is usually as much to do with the final look of the product as it is with its effectiveness.
Unfortunately, rather like bubble bath, some of the common ingredients in shampoos can break down into formaldehyde during storage.
When formaldehyde-forming agents mix with some of the other emulsifying ingredients commonly found in shampoos, such as diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA) and monoethanolamine (MEA), they can form carcinogenic n-nitrosodi-ethanolamine, or NDELA.
This is particularly problematic in shampoos because we use them so frequently and in such great quantities.
Read labels. All shampoos need to contain some detergent, but look for one with the fewest ingredients to limit your exposure.
Use less ? half the amount of shampoo you'd usually use. Always tip your head well back when rinsing to avoid getting shampoo into your eyes.
This is essentially plastic dissolved in a solvent and put in a pressurised can or pump spray. It works by gluing strands of hair together so they can form a stronger structure.
Recently, it has been reported that hairspray contains phthalates ? hormone-disrupting chemicals which are used to keep plastics pliable.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a medical condition known as hairdresser's lung ? a respiratory disease caused by chronic exposure to hairspray. Though the average consumer is unlikely to develop this, using hairspray can do other nasty things to your health.
For example, your nose is lined with tiny hairs that filter out pollution. When hairspray gets onto these, they become sticky and begin to trap pollution.
Other side effects include nail abnormalities. When you spray and then style your hair with your fingers, the spray is deposited on the nails, where it can cause poor regrowth and infection.
Breathing difficulties and contact dermatitis after hairspray use are common complaints.
Ideally, avoid using hairspray and invest in a good cut. If you must use spray, buy products with the fewest ingredients and use pump sprays rather than aerosols.
Shaving cream and foam
There are a wide variety of shaving creams and foams for men and women. They look nice, feel nice and smell nice. But they can contain some not-so-nice ingredients.
For example, triethanolamine (TEA) and lauramide DEA can mix with other chemicals during storage to form carciogenic compounds and propellants such as isobutane and propane ? which have been linked to headaches, breathing difficulties, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.
Get hair thoroughly wet before shaving so you use less foam.
Try shaving soap. It'll still be a detergent - unless you buy it from a health food shop ? but at least you'll avoid the solvents and propellants in shaving foam. Or try a vegetable -based shaving oil (not a mineral-based one).
Buy an electric shaver ? the shave won't be as close, but you'll avoid exposure to all those harsh chemicals.
Find this story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/health/healthmain.html?in_article_id=403703&in_page_id=1774
©2006 Associated New Media
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