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Carcinogens Found in "Organic" Personal Care Products

body lotion, personal care productsA new study commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) found that many leading "natural" and "organic" brand shampoos, body washes, and lotions contain the carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane.

1,4-Dioxane is considered a chemical "known to the State of California to cause cancer.” It is a byproduct of the cancer-causing petrochemical Ethylene Oxide, which is used as part of a short-cut process called Ethoxylation, which makes harsh ingredients milder.

1,4-Dioxane is also suspected of being a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant, among others, according to the California EPA. It is also a leading groundwater contaminant.

Some of the leading organic and natural brands found to contain 1,4-Dioxane include:
  • JASON Pure Natural & Organics
  • Giovanni Organic Cosmetics
  • Kiss My Face
  • Nature’s Gate Organics
To avoid 1,4-dioxane, OCA recommends reading ingredient labels and avoiding products with indications of ethoxylation, which include: "myreth," "oleth," "laureth," "ceteareth," any other "eth," "PEG," "polyethylene," "polyethylene glycol," "polyoxyethylene," or "oxynol," in ingredient names.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
I know you may be tempted to throw up your hands in dismay that even your natural and “organic” soaps, body lotions, cosmetics, and shampoos may be harmful, but there are some safe personal care products on the market.

And once you know what to look for, and perhaps more importantly, what to avoid, finding them is not that difficult.

Beware of “Greenwashed” Personal Care Products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require companies to test their personal care products for safety. What this means is that anyone can throw together a medley of chemicals, add a bit of synthetic fragrance, and call it a body lotion. Yes, this is also true for products that are labeled “natural” and even “organic.”

Now let me say this again: cosmetics and their ingredients do not have to undergo any type of approval process before hitting store shelves, and the terms “natural” and “organic” have no definitions. In other words, when it comes to cosmetics labeling, it’s a free for all.

Some products may include a few organic ingredients, for instance, along with several chemical ones -- and still claim to be natural or organic on the label.

 Of course, organic personal care items have been all the rage recently, and sales of organic personal care items reached $350 million in 2007, increasing 24 percent from 2005.

But if you read Tuesday’s newsletter, then you know that giant corporations are often behind popular organic products. And many of these products are greenwashed to make them appear natural and healthy on the outside, when in reality they contain synthetic ingredients that can harm your health, like 1,4-Dioxane.

Ingredients to AVOID in Your Personal Care Products

You wouldn’t knowingly rub a bunch of synthetic chemicals on your skin, would you? Well, that’s often what happens every day when people slather on lotion, apply makeup or wash their hair. Is using a typical body lotion for a day going to kill you? Well, of course not.

But every product that you put on your body gets absorbed directly into your bloodstream. And over time these chemicals add a significant burden to your body, and that burden can manifest into disease.

So when choosing your personal care products, keep in mind that the ingredients should be safe enough to eat, since that is essentially what you are doing when you apply something onto your skin.

Yet, even if you did happen to eat these chemicals, your digestive system can produce specific enzymes to break down these toxins and excrete them … something that doesn’t readily occur when you absorb them through your skin. So you really do need to be careful.

The only way to be sure of what’s in your personal care products is to become familiar with which ingredients to avoid, and then check the labels of every product before you buy it. Here are some of the major ones that you will definitely want to avoid:
  • Paraben, a chemical found in underarm deodorants and other cosmetics that has been shown to mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen, which can drive the growth of human breast tumors.
  • Phthalates, plasticizing ingredients (present in nearly three-quarters of 72 products tested by the Environmental Working Group), which have been linked to birth defects in the reproductive system of boys and lower sperm-motility in adult men, among other problems.
  • Musks, used as fragrances, can accumulate in your body, and have been linked to skin irritation, hormone disruption, and cancer in laboratory studies.
  • Artificial fragrances, which are among the top five known allergens, and can cause asthma and trigger asthma attacks.
  • Methylisothiazolinone (MIT), a chemical used in shampoo to prevent bacteria from developing, which may have detrimental effects on your nervous system.
  • Toluene, made from petroleum or coal tar, and found in most synthetic fragrances. Chronic exposure linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus.
  • Mineral Oil, Paraffin, and Petrolatum, these products coat your skin like plastic, clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins. They also slow cellular development, which can cause you to show earlier signs of aging, and are a suspected cause of cancer and disruption to hormonal activity.
This is only a sampling of the toxic ingredients that are out there. If you are wondering whether your favorite personal care products are safe, the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database allows you to look up a product and find out.

Or Better Yet, Use Only Products With Ingredients That You Can Read and Pronounce

This is probably the simplest way to find safe products out there. If it includes a lot of long, complex ingredient names, it’s probably not safe.

Fortunately, your search for safe skin care may soon get a lot easier. I am proud to report that my team has been researching this topic extensively and we are getting very close to launching one of the best, most pure skin care product lines out there. It is truly effective, has absolutely no synthetic ingredients, and is packaged in brown glass bottles.

But for now, we’re talking about your health here, so please do be choosy and only use products made of real, recognizable, natural and organic ingredients.