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Labels With Harmful Ingredients In Our Common Products

Updated on December 17, 2010


I am not a chemist, or health-care professional. I am merely sharing  some of the things I have learned through self study. As a consumer you can do the same thing. I'll get you started!.

Reading Labels

Are you a label reader, searching out the list of ingredients? I am. There is a big bother to thank. He was about twelve and walked in on our Grandmother using some forgotten lotion or skin cream, and he remarked to her:

" Granny, did you know that has urea in it" ? She replied nothing . I , however, always one to challenge a big brother, asked him, " what is urea"? He rather pompously told me it was cow urine. Well, he did not really say " urine".

Living on a farm, I certainly knew what that was!

So, I took a peak at Granny's jar or bottle, and there it was: urea. Shocked, I ran to Granddad's dictionary.....

Urea: (yoo re' e) noun, a soluble, crystalline solid found in urine or synthetically made

It did not mention a cow, but I was hooked.  There I stood in amazement, we had over 250 head of cattle and 'they' were making urine!   "Why"  my young mind cried?


Learning to buy

My first serious label reading involved food. Having learned to cook rather young, I was not drawn to prepacked or convenience foods. Nor did I have any use for animal growth hormones.

 When my own youngsters began to want some treat or easy for them to fix items, I confess, I used the labels against them. They, too, learned to read labels and research. Afterall, they had the encylopedias and then the internet, might as well  use the tools for learning.

Look at the additives in some of the foods that you have in your kitchen. Do you see any of these words?

MSG, Designed to enhance the flavor of food. It can over excite your nervous system.

BHA, BHT, Used to prevent oils and fats from going rancid. Can be carcinogenic.

Sodium Nitrate, This is not just another salt, this is a chemical compound used in fertilizers and rocket fuel. Also, a known carcinogenic.

Designed foods, and rocket fuel components just don't sound healthy to me. The last thing my family needed was the kids overly excited, flying through the air and bouncing off the walls. Not to mention, I have never seen fat go rancid. It must happen though. Something has been invented to stop it.

Now, I can't say that we banned all chips, sodas, and convenience foods from the table. We did become smarter about what we bought and consumed.

This is an excellent resource with a great deal of information. The average consumer can read this info without a degree in chemistry.

From Food to HBA

My research simply grew from food products to HBA items. After all, you should be concerned about what your skin absorbs.

This is far too much info to keep in my head, so , I decided to use some of the toiletries in our home. Probably very similar to what you use. The list of ingredients is too exhaustive to list in a hub, so, I will only review the ones that raised concern.

First my husband's bath soap:

Right there on the box of soap, the first ingredient is sodium tallowate. Tallow is beef fat. I have no idea why, but my Grandmother would not use tallow in soapmaking. She used only rendered lard.

Next, we have sodium cocoate, a known skin irritant.

The soap has several lathering ingredients, carriers, and FDA approved fragrances and colorings. But the FDA has also approved beef tallow and known skin irritants.

As far as commercial soaps go, this is about as safe as it gets.

Next up, a well known national deodorant.

Sodium stearate, could not be found in the resource I was using. Elsewhere, I learned , it is " a salt of stearic acid", also used in rubber products, latex paint, inks, and accelerants.

Myristyl ether, could not be found in the source I was using. What I did find, made me wish I was a chemist!  This is what I read, "straight chain saturated fatty alcohol" " molecular formula, C,14,H30,O". Proctor and Gamble has a 7 page MSDS ( material safety data sheet), # ALCH414-1.

There are many items in our life that have MSDS's, they are on file at the retailer where you bought them. What concerns me, is the absence of a description that the average consumer can understand.


My Products

The first item is a mineral based powder foundation. There were 3 reasons that I purchased this particular product. It is from a company I usually trust, it is a mineral powder, and because it contains salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is a BHA, beta hydroxy acid, a skin exfoliant , It can be quite irritating to some skin types, but my skin tolerates it well. In this formula it makes up only .5% of the ingredient list. The other 99.5% is made of coloring agents, water binding agents and stabilizers. There was nothing there to cause me concern.

Next up, a high end sunscreen from the maker of the above mineral powder.

When I retrieved this from the bathroom shelf, I was disappointed. The tube claims to be working with the American Cancer Society in the prevention of skin cancer. But, in the fine print, it states, they have no such endorsement. They have bought the rights to use the ACS logo! Should this be legal? Isn't this willful misleading?

There are five " active" ingredients in the list. Each of them is a sunscreen agent , and are listed as safe to use by my source.

Of the five inactive ingredients, 1 throws up a red flag.

BHT, synthetic antioxidant, a known carcinogenic, it carries the warning that it is not to be swallowed.  Why are we putting a cancer causing agent in a sunscreen?

The final item is a face wash, made by another reputable and well known company.

It's contents are made up of cleansing agents, humectants,  drawing water to the skin , ( which I will also be rinsing away) and lathering agents.

Again, there was one product that raised a red flag:

Sodium myristoyl ( this is not the same ingredient found in hubby's deodorant)....

This is also a cleansing agent, but it is LINKED to cancer and is absorbed through the skin.

Want to search for yourself?  Use this link to get started.  It makes the work so much easier, and it too, is easy to navigate and use.

This link is to the US FDA, where I found a bit more on tallow.

The Conclusion

There was not as much cause for alarm as I had expected.  Wise shopping does pay off. I was shocked to still see ingredients linked to cancer in a sunscreen product.


Manufactures have listened to the consumers.   Great strides have been made in the last few years in the safety of our products.  Still, there is room for improvement.  We must let the manufacturers know why we are not choosing their product.

You are still responsible for your family as a consumer.  Don't take safety for granted.  Be informed, inform yourself.  The information is so easy to get.

Just a point of interest, while using my ingredient source, there were at least 40 entries that were preceded by "sodium".  How much salt do we need in our lives?

Somehow the cow tinkle doesn't seem so bad now.

Interested in Making Your Own Products


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    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 5 years ago from A small southern town


      Thanks for reading my hub!

      I , often, forget the list of things to avoid, and have to refresh my memory from time to time. A few times, I have jotted down a list of ingredients and reresearched them before deciding to purchase or skip the product.

      Hope to see you again on HP.

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 5 years ago

      I read labels too, even though I can't understand all of them. Thanks for your article, now I know I should avoid MSG, BHA, BHT and Sodium Nitrate.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 6 years ago from A small southern town

      Glen Stok.........

      Thank you, so very much!

      I hope to see you again, somewhere

      across HubPages~~

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I have always read labels and the ingredients make me shy away from various food products. I've done this all of my adult life and I think it may be one reason why people say I look 10 years younger than I am. Staying away from those chemicals can't hurt. This is a very important Hub you wrote. Voted up and useful.

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 6 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Very interesting. I am currently in the process of eliminating processed food as far as eating it on a regular basis goes - so this is a timely hub (or timely that I found you now). On top of all those chemicals, I think refined sugar should be added to the list of dangerous food. Processed sugar is about 10 times more potent than natural sugar and I have noticed that it is so incredibly addictive and debilitating - I am slowly replacing it with honey at home. Of course, as I write this at work, I am sucking on a coffee with that so called creamer that comes in powdered form and the refined white sugar.

      It's outrageous that your sunscreen not only includes a chemical that causes cancer in a product designed to prevent cancer, but that they blatantly lie and mislead people into believing they are safe. I feel all this has a very sinister source and that we have to change our lifestyle. I'm working on mine, but I don't see myself giving up the computer any time soon (plastic and so on).

      Good hub, thanks!

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town



      I will make it a point to read it.

    • breathe2travel profile image

      breathe2travel 7 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      I am linking this to my hub:

      It is linked in the area "not reading ingredients"

      voted up & useful

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      thank you for your visit and for your confidence...

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      I liked this Hub - it is our responsibility as consumers to be aware of what is in the products we buy. Thanks for the interesting info.

      Love and peace


    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      Thanks for coming by and reading. I do appreciate your comments.

      It can be an overwhelming task......I would advise someone to start with a small ingredient list on foods first, and build the knowledge from there.

      There is always something new to learn.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 7 years ago from Sweden

      Very good and informative hub! Sadly enough, it is important to read labels on almost everything that can be purchased! But it is difficult to keep up with all new ingredients! You have made it easier! Thanks!

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Hello, RTalloni,

      Glad to see you here, reading my hub.

      I have not read anything about mineral powders invading the lungs. It seems that you would have to be breathing them be careful around the nose and mouth.

      My Grandmother did warn me about using baby powders on my babes.....she was concerned about them breathing the dust.

      Cosmetics are applied in a different fashion........I will make it a point to investigate the claim.

      Thanks for coming by, and thanks for giving me something else to think about!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

      Your hub is great--it is so important to read labels-- but I recently read an article on the mineral powders being harmful because the particles are so small that they get caught in the lungs. Have you done any reading on this?

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      I agree, we have risked our health for convenience. We are now paying the price, and consumers are becoming wiser.

      Thanks for coming, reading and most of all for your support.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      There are a lot of harmful additives and chemicals in the products we use - including food! Great hub to raise awareness.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      Thank you again........

      I do agree, we should be aware and mindful, for ourselves and families.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Another great hub from you. We have to aware with many kind ingredients in the market. We have to make good selection. I thought we don't want it harmful to our body. Thank you very much. Vote up.

      Prasetio :)

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      Thank you for coming by for a read.......

      I am glad that it was easy for you to understand, that was my goal.

      Thanks for the link (ing)......I am thrilled you found it useful.

      Please come and read more on HubPages. There is a wealth of talent here.

    • NCBIer profile image

      NCBIer 7 years ago

      Great hub! You certainly have a way with words, of explaining potentially complicated things in an easy-to-read and enjoyable way. I will be linking to this hub from my website. Thank you!

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Hello, Team GBG USA and Keith!

      Welcome to Hub Pages and thanks for making my hub one of your first stops.

    • Team GBG USA profile image

      Team GBG USA 7 years ago

      Great info!

      Read those labels.


    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      Good to see you back! I was thinking about you over my coffee.

      Thanks for the congrats!

      Consumers pay a hefty price for convenience.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Hi Beth Ann Reed,

      It's good to have a new reader on my hubs.

      I do tend to a girl, back on the farm, we had a steady diet of bacon, eggs, beef,chicken, stayed in the sun all day, drank from the garden hoses; just regular, "dangerous" things....

      We were rarely sick, had plenty of energy, very rarely heard of cancer....

      Now, just about every American family has been touched by it.

    • Beth Ann Reed profile image

      Beth Ann Reed 7 years ago

      Thanks for the info and links. No wonder we're surrounded by cancer. Enjoy your writing style also.

    • Karanda profile image

      Karen Wilton 7 years ago from Australia

      Great hub, we love Chinese food but would wake up in the middle of the night, parched for thirst. We still enjoy the occasional treat but make sure we request, no extra MSG thanks. It doesn't take much to ensure you are eating the raw ingredients. Congratulations on your 100 Hubber Score.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Hello Dallas93444,

      Our HBA products have. There was not too much I could say about the food, not having much in the house to research. Potatoes are about the only thing in a bag of potatoes!

      I may just do a trial grocery shopping list!

      Thanks for coming by, it was good to see you here.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Great hub. Perhaps our food is improving.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      Thanks for coming by and offering my readers another link to the info they are searching for. They certainly have enough to get them started and a choice, compare ingredients or products. Good idea.

      I appreciate your reading!

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Micky Dee.......

      Too much for my head to hold!

      Thanks for your support.

    • eventsyoudesign profile image

      eventsyoudesign 7 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      To look up a chemical in any beauty product just go to Skin Deep: You will find a lot of good information there. I like this article. It is easy to follow and very informative. It is a shame that the food and cosmetics industries can put some pretty ugly stuff in their products and the FDA allows them to sell the products to the American people anyway. Many of the substances are on the G.R.A.S. list, (generally recognized as safe), even though they might not be safe. You mention sun screen products and now we are finding out that those products may actually cause rather than prevent skin disease. One more thing. "Good Hair", Chris Rocks documentary about African American peoples hair, talks about the safety of the chemicals that these people are using on their hair just so it will look good, but the facts are not so good. Many of the products are not safe. One man actually had mold growing beneath his scalp because of the chemicals he was using on his hair. The movie is good and it shows what people are willing to go through to make their hair look good. You article is really good. You made me think and I like that. P.S. Your article held my attention and that is important.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Gee! So much we need to know. Buttons up Onegoodwoman!

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      I know you are intelligent enough to determine what is beneficial and what is harmful. Even, though great strides have been made, it is up to us to make a wise choice.

      Thanks for coming by and supporting me.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town


      Thanks for coming by and reading, it is appreciated. I am delighted that it may assist you. Those links are in my favorites box, they are a great source of info and easy to navigate.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Hello my friend JRM,

      Simplicity and Grace....we don't need much more. When I realized that, life became less stressful and far more appealing.

      Your generousity of words warm me.

    • eculligan profile image

      eculligan 7 years ago

      Thanks for the great tips! Perhaps I need to continue to educate myself and start reading labels.

    • jonhbeam profile image

      jonhbeam 7 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you so much for researching this! I am still a naive college student and do not think about these things. Reading your hub has gotten my interest in starting to buy smarter. Great job!

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      This is great information Y, I really like your introduction, that would be quite an eye opener for young ones. I switched to natural deodorants years ago from enflamed lymph nodes. I use a natural crème called Levilin. My diet still isn’t the greatest, but it is a work in progress. I like how your product and food hubs have a subtle message of returning to our use of natural living. At least that’s what I get from your writing.