Consider this, the European Union has banned over 1,300 chemicals from consumer and industry use, while the United States has only banned 11 and this is through a self-designated industry panel called the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel. How much oversight is our government providing when you consider a statistical comparison which is so dramatic? None. How much more shocked will you be to know that the unregulated chemicals in our cosmetics and personal care which are banned in the EU are known irritants, neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. That’s right, they cause cancer, birth defects, genetic mutation, organ damage, and that’s just to get started.
How does this happen? Because what you put on your skin gets into your body. Probably more than 90% of the ingredients in products are absorbed. They make it through your derma and into your blood stream, your muscle tissue, your organs and your nervous system.
Apparently death is the only standard by which chemicals are regulated in the United States, because the banned chemicals look pretty scary:
- Halogenated salicylanilides
- Ethylene chloride
- Prohibited cattle material (tallow and its by-products)
That’s it. That’s the entire list. These are the only chemicals that our government is concerned about when it comes to your health and safety. This compared to over 1,300 that you are protected from if you live in Europe and when you realize that there are over 10,500 unique chemical ingredients that are found in personal care products in the United States, you can see why our system is woefully inadequate.
Our Obsession with Drugs
If the product is a drug, meaning it claims to heal or improve a skin condition, it is a drug and that will get the attention of the FDA. This is all we have to rely upon as consumers. Drugs do require pre-marketing approval by the FDA and must be registered. The FDA’s main goals are risk management and correct labeling of products. As stated in 1999 report from the FDA’s ‘Task Force on Risk Management’: The Agency approves a product when it judges that the benefits of using a product outweigh the risks for the intended population and use. This is a GRAS claim which means that there are no ingredients that have obvious severe short term side effects. A major goal of the premarketing review is to ensure that products are truthfully and adequately labeled for the population and use.
When the FDA makes a GRAS claim about your products, it does not mean that the product has proven to be safe. It merely means that according to the FDA, the product and the ingredients contained therein is not harmful enough to prevent it from being sold. In addition, this is all self-reporting. It is only if you make a claim that your product is having a drug effect, like making you look younger, or curing poison ivy, or protecting you for the sun, for example, that you even have to submit to any FDA oversight. Thousands and thousands of products are available to consumers that never even approach making a claim that brings it into the regulatory purview of the FDA. So in addition to the bar being set very low for cosmetics and personal care regulation under the FDA, there are so many, many more products that have no regulatory oversight at all.
The Ingredients We Should Avoid
Here are some of the most common ingredients in products marketed for babies and families that we found on our ingredients lists, or, through my research, found out are present in personal care and cosmetics products but are not disclosed in ingredient lists, as we started our efforts to detoxify our home. These are ingredients that we decided to research because we didn’t understand why they are in the products we buy.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLES)
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate or Sodium Laurilsulfate
- Petroleum and Petroleum By-Products
- Triclosan and Triclocarbon
- Cocamide DEA
- Dimethicone, Polydimethylsiloxane Or PDMS
- Retinyl Palmitate Or Vitamin A Palmitate
- Phalates Or DEP And DBP
- Placental Extract
Next week I'll go into detailed descriptions of each of the above listed chemicals.