It should come as no surprise to you that our environment is bombarded with toxins and chemicals. These include ingredients in our food, air, water, and products that we purchase for our bodies and homes. It is very difficult to totally avoid them. What is especially noteworthy is their effect on children. In this blog, I will explore some of these harmful chemicals and plastics to make sure you know about them.
Awareness is the first key to having a healthier family! For one test, I dare you to go through your home and count the number of plastic bottles alone that you own in personal care and cleaning products. Don’t forget the garage and refrigerator. Are you getting the picture? That isn’t taking into account that many products are made from a mix of ingredients including plastic. For extra fun, look at the ingredients and see if any of the ones I discuss in this blog are listed.
One of the safest ways to protect you and your family as much as possible is to become educated by reading labels on food and personal care products. Buyer beware and buyer be smart! Also, become informed about the safe and unsafe ingredients and then replace them with healthier choices. Many simple household items like soda and vinegar can made into simple cleaning products in place of the toxic products sold and can be much cheaper too. I am hoping this blog will be a start on this path of understanding a few toxins you may have heard about and why they are dangerous.
Did you know that over 150 chemicals are found in the average home? These are linked to allergies, birth defects, cancer, and psychological abnormalities. In the past 10 years there has been a 42% increase in asthma (more for women who are at home more around toxins), and many babies are now born with toxins they received in utero from their mother. Since the 1940’s, more than 72,000 synthetic chemicals have been introduced into our products and less than 2% of these are tested. In fact, the EPA assumes something is safe unless proven otherwise. Cancer is more likely to be caused from toxins in the home than the outdoor air. Just when you thought it was safe to stay at home !
First let’s discuss plasticity? One definition is the quality of being plastic; another is the capacity for being molded or altered. Obviously it has everything to do with plastics and we are surrounded by them. We are living in a plastic world these days for certain! Take a look around your home….plastic in cosmetic products, cleaning products, in your automobile, storage containers, and much more. It’s hard to avoid!
Plastic has now been around for over a century! It was first invented in1907, by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian-born American living in New York State. It was made from phenol and formaldehyde. I must digress here and talk about the latter substance.
As you may know formaldehyde is NOT a safe substance. When breathed in it can cause watery eyes, burning in the throat and eyes, coughing, wheezing, skin irritation, nausea and difficulty in breathing. Also, the EPA has classified formaldehyde as a ‘probable human carcinogen’ and the National Cancer Institute researchers conclude that exposure to formaldehyde may cause leukemia. One flooring company is under scrutiny (Liquidators) because formaldehyde has been found in the flooring and caused customers to experience health issues. It was also removed, thankfully, from Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo products in 2014, though their products remain in scrutiny for other ingredients.
In addition, be cautious about your nail polish! Thankfully in the past couple of years safer brands are now on the market. When you look at the pretty rows of nail polish in the salon, take note that most nail polish is not completely natural, but the most important thing to look for are brands that are “3-free,” meaning they don’t use toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or formaldehyde, which are all known carcinogens. Some brands also describe themselves as “5-free” when they don’t use formaldehyde resin or camphor in addition.
Why are many nail polishes unsafe? Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which keeps polish from becoming brittle, also can cause reproductive harm. Formaldehyde, a nail hardener also used in a wide variety of products including air fresheners and the Brazilian Blowout hair straightener, is a known carcinogen. Since 2006, OPI has reformulated its entire line of nail products to eliminate DBP (dibutyl phthalate) and Toluene.Formaldehyde has never been an ingredient in OPI Nail Lacquers. Thankfully many salons now use OPI products. For a list of safer nail polishes visit this site: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/non-toxic-nail-polish.html. Personally when going for a pedicure, I look for salons that use organic products as much as possible. I also sell natural products that do not use toxic ingredients. (Please check out my product pages on this site).
Now let’s get back to plastics! Most plastics these days are primarily made from polymers, which are long repetitive molecules, made primarily of carbon but fit a very broad category including silicones. At this time there are many thousands of kinds of polymers and they have their own DNA, and are mutable. Synthetic plastics likely last for thousands of years (who of us will be around for the conclusive evidence?) So our landfills are full of materials that may take thousands of years to decompose. Some of the pieces are now found in our oceans floating around and bacteria may feed on this junk.
Along with the spread of these junk piles everywhere, there is another problem with plastics. Most of them are derived from oil and gas! (I won’t digress into that area at this time.) Luckily there is new interest is in bioplastics which will help battle climate change as well. Bioplastics use sugar which is converted into ethelene, polythene and PET. Sugar is not good for you to eat, but may play a strong role in the future of other products that we use, even fueling our cars.
Let’s turn our attention to several other ingredients you may want to avoid using! Women are especially prone to the side effects of cleaning agents since so many are found and used in the home. Ammonia for one. According to Wiki: “Ammonia or azane is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula NH3. It is a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent smell. Although common in nature and in wide use, ammonia is both caustic and hazardous in its concentrated form.” It can affect humans and animals as a gas or a particulate and should be avoided by anyone with respiratory ailments especially for children and the elderly. Primarily it is an irritant where ammonium particles may travel into the lungs causing bronchitis, coughing asthma and farmer’s lung. Mixing ammonia with bleach can cause a deadly chemical reaction
Since I mentioned bleach, let’s discuss that next. Most of you probably have used it to whiten your clothing. Bleach can irritate the nose, eyes, skin and lungs. It addition to respiratory issues, it can damage the nervous system, cause asthma flare ups, headaches, skin burns, vomiting and migraines. It also is linked to respiratory illness, and is particularly hazardous when combined with other cleaning solvents such as mentioned above. The main hazard of bleach is that it can’t be mixed with ammonia, vinegar or other acids, and even organic matter which are what it is often used for in the first place. Studies in European countries where schools were cleaned with bleach, showed that children had more 18-25% more infections, flus and tonsillitis.
Next let’s talk about chlorine, that wonderful warfare agent used as a gas in World War 1. It was fired upon French forces with devastating results. Now we don’t think much about it being in our swimming pools and drinking water. But should we? It is suspected to be a thyroid disruptor, a respiratory irritant and can also be found in many other cleaning and laundry products.
Then there is Lye, not the kind of tall tail you tell! Sodium hydroxide is bad news! It can cause blindness, melt your skin, induce a coma and bring on acute respiratory failure. It is often found in oven and drain cleaners and de-greasing products.
The next one I am not very familiar with. Perchloroethylene (PERC) is classified as a possible carcinogen which can be found in carpet, upholstery cleaners and other spot and dry cleaning agents. The EPA and California are trying to phase it out entirely by the early 2020’s.
This chemical is familiar to me as it is used in many personal products and on my ‘avoid ‘list (on my Lemongrass Spa site). Phthalates are often listed as ‘fragrance’ and can be a compound which is a trade secret of the company using it. At least one-third of fragrance chemicals used are toxic because they are an endocrine disruptor, affect the reproductive system and the growing fetus. They can be found in many cleansers, plastic clothing, toys, air fresheners, shampoo, car care and soaps. They are also used in plastics and the aforementioned as a softening agent. Watch out for these particular phrases on labels: butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP), dibutyl phthalate (DnBP), di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), di-butyl phthalate (DBP), benzyl butyl. I am starting to see Phthalate-free on many bottles!
This discussion would not be complete without talking about BPA (Bisphenol-A). This one has been in the news a lot over the past couple of years and there has been a movement to remove BPA from many products. BPA’s are very common and used in countless plastic products that we use daily. Many unfortunately, are children’s products such as bottles, sippy cups, teething rings and pacifiers. But they are also in our canned food liners and plastic water bottles. Please look for labels that state ‘BPA-free” and switch to glass containers as much as possible.
Let’s turn to triclosan, a probable carcinogen that promotes superbugs, disrupts the endocrine system and causes cardiac issues. You will see it commonly in hand soaps, toothpaste and detergents although many have now removed it. Triclosan can also be branded as Microban® Additive B, Irgasan® (DP 300 or PG 60), Biofresh®, Lexol-300, Ster-Zac or Cloxifenolu Even though it is supposed to be anti-bacterial, soaps containing tea tree essential oils or regular soaps will get the job done.(My Lemongrass Spa product line carries tea tree soap.)
And last but not least, consider 2-Butoxyethenol, an ingredient that is not required to be listed on labels due to proprietary formulas in fragrances! It not only causes mucus irritation, but also may contribute to liver and kidney damage, pulmonary edema, and narcosis (drowsiness and stupor).
Is your head spinning yet?? Or is that just a symptom of the toxins in your home? Seriously, when I thought about writing this blog I wanted to talk only about plastics. But I realized that did not go far enough and one chemical led to another. Now you are more informed. You can choose to read labels, make your own products or buy safer ones. Make it a safe choice please and consider my product lines on my website or making your own (DIY).