In today’s world of toxic substances working their way into consumer products, you need to be a serious label reader and interpreter to understand what it is you are inhaling, consuming, and putting on your body. All three of these actions effectively allow toxins to be introduced and potentially bioaccumulate in your body, setting the stage for a toxic burden that expresses itself through symptoms and later gets labeled as one of hundreds of diseases.
People have made assumptions that food is your only real concern for an uptake of noxious chemicals, however, food is only one of several methods that these toxins can get inside your body. In fact, it could be argued that those toxic substances that you inhale or put on your skin are far more dangerous as they escape common detoxification pathways (like the digestive system) and go directly into the bloodstream and assault surrounding organs and glands.
There are dozens of these types of toxic chemicals in thousands of consumer products, but for the sake of this article, we will focus on phthalates and parabens.
Phthalates (Dibutyl Phthalate or DBP)
Phthalates are a common industrial chemical used in PVC plastics, solvents, and synthetic fragrances. They have been around since the 1930’s and have completely infiltrated consumer products to the point that when they tested people in 2000, the CDC found phthalates in all the subjects blood at very high levels. Phthalates are often referred to as “plasticizers”, and are found most commonly in the following types of products:
Anything contained in BPA plastic (milk, spices, etc)
Nail polish (may be referred to as DBP in ingredients)
Hair care, body wash, and some cosmetics
Plastics in kitchen (tupperware – heating food in plastic containers makes phthalates more likely to leech out)
Vinyl toys (phthalates make them soft – opt for wooden toys instead)
Paint (may contain phthalates as solvents)
Fragrance (diethyl phthalate, or DEP, is often disguised as “fragrance” in some products)
Vinyl (think lawn furniture, garden hoses, building materials, raincoats, and shower curtains)
With phthalates being so omnipresent, their effects have become well pronounced in the general populations health. Some of the most common health concerns directly linked to phthalates include:
Reproductive issues (notably, decreased sperm motility)
Neurodevelopment issues (ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, behavioural issues, lowered IQ)
Type 2 diabetes
With many of these issues commonplace in the general population’s health, one needs to take a serious look at the widespread and serious effects of phthalates and how to effectively replace them in everyday consumer products.
Parabens are very common synthetic preservatives used in cosmetic and personal care products, and sometimes used in foods, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. In 2006, the CDC detected parabens in nearly all of 100 urine samples tested, indicating widespread exposure among Americans.
Parabens are used to inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeast, and molds and are used as preservatives. They are most commonly found in the following consumer products:
Deodorants and antiperspirants
Shampoos and conditioners
Lotions and sunscreens
Make up and cosmetics
With parabens used in personal care products commonly used on a daily basis, any toxic threat in these products is being introduced to a persons body consistently through the skin, potentially leading to significant bioaccumulation. This is a serious concern, with parabens being linked to the following health concerns:
Skin allergy and irritation
Estrogen stimulated breast cancers
A 2004 study testing for parabens in human breast cancer tumours found traces of 5 different parabens in 19 of 20 tumours. Recent research has found that doses of specific parabens trigger growth responses in estrogen sensitive breast cancer cells, similar to those provoked by a potent form of estrogen known as estradiol.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits the levels of parabens allowed in foods and beverages, there currently is no regulation of these chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products.
Both phthalates and parabens have been proven to initiate serious health concerns, and are found in products used by arguably nearly every American today. Unfortunately, none are the wiser as they have not been educated on these chemicals and they are often disguised in long ingredient lists under names like DBP and fragrance. Even worse, they are often under the umbrella “all-natural”, which leads consumers to believe the product is “healthy”.
Fortunately, there are companies who care about the well-being of consumers who have created databases and products to make customers aware and provide them with less toxic options.
Visit the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to investigate these toxins and hundreds of others (including triclosan, BHA and BHT, sodium lauryl sulphate, and propylene glycol) lurking in a variety of consumer products and to make better decisions for your health.
Sources for this article include: