You may think that the "natural" or "organic" beauty, health or household item you are using is safe. "Natural" means safe, right? Wrong. Hidden in many commonly-used items are very toxic ingredients. Read this list of 11 common toxic ingredients, and look at the ingredients list on all of your beauty, health, and household items to make sure that they don't contain any.
BPA or Bisphenol-A is one of the more well-known toxic ingredients. It is in plastic, including water bottles, inner linings of soup and other canned foods, and toothpaste tubes (yes, even the “green” ones).
Why It’s Bad: BPA is a proven endocrine disruptor, and exposure to BPA can cause many disorders, including adult-onset diabetes, chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, early puberty, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, obesity, and resistance to chemotherapy
2. DEA (diethanolamine) MEA (monoethanolamine) TEA (triethanolamine):
DEA, TEA, and MEA are neutralizing detergents, used to adjust the PH of a product. They are commonly found in most personal care products that foam, including bubble baths, body washes, shampoos, soaps and facial cleansers.
Why They’re Bad: DEA, MEA, and TEA are hormone-disrupting chemicals, and form cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines. Easily absorbed into the skin, they have been found to cause eye and skin problems, as well as liver and kidney cancer. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), "There is sufficient evidence of a carcinogenic effect of N-nitrosodiethanolamine." IARC recommends that NDEA should be treated as if it were a carcinogen in humans. The National Toxicology Program similarly concluded: "There is sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of N-nitrosodiethanolamine in experimental animals.”
3. DMDM hydantoin
DMDM is a preservative that release formaldehyde.
DMDM is found in shampoo and conditioner, body wash and liquid soap, nail polish, deodorant, toothpaste, sunscreen, baby wipes, lotion and moisturizer, diaper cream, and baby powder.
Why It’s Bad: DMDM is an allergen that releases formaldehyde, which can irritate the respiratory system, cause skin reactions and trigger heart palpitations. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness and loss of sleep. It can also aggravate coughs and colds and trigger asthma. Serious side effects include weakening of the immune system and cancer.
Fragrances are chemicals that give an item a scent, and are found in cosmetics, shampoos, bubble baths, soaps, hand wipes, air freshener, candles, household cleaning products, and anything else that contains a
Fragrances often contain Phthalates (see below).
Why They’re Bad: The regulations for using the word “fragrance” on a label are not very strict, and over 3,100 chemicals hide behind the term. In fact, no law requires disclosures of all chemicals in fragrances. Fragrances cause sensory irritation, cancer, pulmonary irritation, decreases in expiratory airflow velocity, seizures, autoimmune dysfunction, organ toxicity, and neurotoxicity.
5. Flame Retardants
Flame retardants, also called PDBES, can be found in foams and electronic products, such as car seats, mattresses, foam pillows, and children’s clothing. PBDEs bioaccumulate in blood, breast milk, and fat tissues. Studies in Canada have found significant concentrations of PBDEs in common foods such as salmon, ground beef, butter, and cheese.[
Why They’re Bad: exposure to low concentrations of these chemicals may result in irreparable damage to the nervous, immunological, and reproductive systems. They cause liver and thyroid toxicity, and are particularly toxic to the developing brain (think babies in utero and children up through age 25).
6. Isopropyl Alcohol:
Isopropyl Alcohol is a solvent and denaturant (poisonous substance that changes another substance's natural qualities), and is found in hair color rinses, body rubs, hand lotions, after-shave lotions, fragrances and many other cosmetics.
Why It’s Bad: According to A Consumers Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, inhalation or ingestion of the vapor may cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting and coma. Additionally, since it is a denaturant, isopropyl alcohol can destroy the properties of other ingredients.
Another more well-known toxic ingredient are parabens, which are used as effective preservatives in many types of formulas, and are also used as food additives and in pharmaceutical medications. They range from methylparaben to polyparaben, and butylparaben to isobutylparaben, and should all be avoided.
They are found in shampoos, cosmetics, moisturizers, toothpaste, food products, medications, and other commonly-used items.
Why They’re Bad: According to the EWG, “Parabens are widely used synthetic preservatives found in the most of the nearly 25,000 cosmetics and personal care products in Skin Deep. Parabens can disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system, and were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tested urine from 100 adults and found parabens in nearly all.” They can also cause skin irritation.
PEGs are polymer derivatives, and consist of a long list of chemicals that show up with the letters peg as a prefix, such as peg-40 lanolin or peg-6.
PEG's are found in shampoos and soaps.
Why They’re Bad: PEGs are terribly toxic, and exposure to them can cause cancer, reproduction and fertility issues, birth or developmental effects, and organ system toxicity (non-reproductive).
Phthalates, called “plasticizers,” are also known as PVC. They can be found in toys, shampoos, nail polish, “faux leather” clothing and shoes, handbags, purses, diaper bags, infant formula, commercial baby food, cosmetics and more. Infants in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) are one group of concern for phthalate exposure.
Why They’re Bad: According to the EPA, “Phthalates are endocrine disruptors or hormonally-active agents (HAAs) because of their ability to interfere with the endocrine system in the body (6, 7). Exposure to phthalates has been reported to result in increased incidence of developmental abnormalities such as cleft palate and skeletal malformations, and increased fetal death in experimental animal studies (1-7). The most sensitive system is the immature male reproductive tract, with phthalate exposure resulting in increased incidence of undescended testes, decreased testes weight, decreased anogenital distance (distance between the anus and the base of the penis), and other effects (1-7).”
10. Propylene Glycol (PG)
Propylene Glycol (PG) is a solvent, which is the active component in antifreeze. Although it is commercially used to break down protein and cellular structure, it is found in make-up, hair products, lotions, after-shaves, deodorants, mouthwashes and toothpastes. It is also used in food processing. Because of its ability to quickly penetrate the skin, the EPA requires workers to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles when working with this toxic substance.
Why It’s Bad: PG is strong enough to remove barnacles from boats! From Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS): Health Hazard Acute And Chronic INHALATION: May cause respiratory and throat Irritation, central nervous system depression, blood and kidney disorders. May cause Nystagmus, Lymphocytosis. SKIN: Irritation and dermatitis, absorption. EYES: Irritation and conjunctivitis. INGESTION: Pulmonary edema, brain damage, hypoglycemia, intravascular hemolysis. Death may occur. Consumers are not protected nor is there a warning label on products such as stick deodorants, where the concentration is greater than that in most industrial applications.
11. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES):
SLS and SLES are used as foaming agents in most cosmetics, shampoos, toothpastes, and commercial cleaners.
Why They’re Bad: Mark Fearer in an article, Dangerous Beauty, says "...in tests, animals that were exposed to SLS experienced eye damage, along with depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation and corrosion and death." According to the American College of Toxicology states, "...both SLS and SLES can cause malformation in children's eyes.
Other research has indicated SLS may be damaging to the immune system, the skin, and can be transformed into nitrosamines, a potent class of carcinogens, which causes the body to absorb nitrates at higher levels than eating nitrate-contaminated food." According to the American College of Toxicology report, "Studies have indicated that SLS easily penetrates through the skin and enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain. This poses serious questions regarding its potential health threat through its use in shampoos, cleansers and toothpaste."