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Personal Care Product Dangers

Updated on April 19, 2013

Do you ever read the labels on our shampoo, soap or deodorant? Each day we may use as many as ten or more personal care products.

Unfortunately our personal care products can be a source of pollution. Researchers have found that one eighth of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, plasticizers and degreasers.

Next time you are about to shampoo your hair or put on some deodorant, stop and read the label. I'm sure you won't be able to tell from the long list of ingredients if they are harmful to your health or to the environment.

Most personal care products contain fragrances or perfume, which is often the last item on the ingredient list. Fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets so manufacturers don't have to disclose the chemicals they use to make the fragrance.

More than 3,000 chemicals are used to create fragrances and are usually complex mixtures. Around 80% of these chemicals have never been tested to see if they are toxic to humans.

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There are many chemicals in that bottle of perfume that may have a harmful effect that won't show up right away. For example, diethyl phthalate is a cheap and versatile chemical widely used in cosmetic fragrances to make the scent last longer. A range of medical problems have been associated with this chemical including the interference with hormone function. Phthalates has been linked to early puberty in girls and reduced sperm count in men. Also, there is evidence that this chemical can cause reproductive defects in the developing male fetus when the mother is exposed during pregnancy.

There is also some research that phthalate metabolites may contribute to obesity and insulin resistance in men. Health Canada has moved to ban six phthalates in children's toys after finding evidence that showed prolonged exposure can cause liver or kidney failure. So far there are no plans to regulate the chemicals in cosmetics.

Fragance in Cleaning Products

Fragrances are found in laundry detergents and cleaning products.  Even products labelled "fragrance-free" or "unscented" can contain fragrance, usually with a masking agent to prevent the brain from perceiving odour. 

The negative effects of some fragrance ingredients for a number of people is a sensitivity to chemicals.  For example, fragrance chemicals can trigger allergic reactions, asthma attacks and migraine headaches.  There is research that indicates that they chemicals can exacerbate or even contribute to the development of asthma in children.

Natural Cleaning Products

Long before there were cleaning products in the supermarket, there were natural cleaning products that our grandmothers and great grandmothers would have used to clean their laundry and their homes. Here are eight great ideas for green, all natural cleaning products that won’t have you breathing toxic chemicals and will still make everything clean and fresh.

Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a great abrasive cleaner and deodorizer. You can scour the kitchen sink, pots and pans, tile and stainless steel surfaces. It may take a little more effort than using bleach based commercial products but it is far less toxic. Do you have cats or dogs? Sprinkle baking soda on your furniture and carpets before vacuuming to remove any pet odors.

Distilled White Vinegar is a natural disinfectant. Mix 50% vinegar with 50% water and put in a spray bottle. Use to clean your mirrors, glass surfaces and kitchen cutting boards and counters. Don’t use vinegar on marble or stone as it will leave a mark. White vinegar is also a great cleaner in the bathroom for getting rid of mildew. Mix with hot water to clean most hardwood floors.

Washing soda is somewhat caustic so wear gloves when using this product. Washing soda is great for scouring out stains and mildew in your shower or other wet tiled places. It will cut through grease and oil and will even remove lipstick and strip wax off wood surfaces. Add washing soda to your laundry to help remove stains and disinfect.

Lemon juice is a great way to leave a clean, fresh scent behind without any chemicals. Cut a lemon in half, dip in salt to remove stains from metal surfaces like copper and brass. Lemon juice will also break up soap residue and mineral deposits from hard water.

Borax is an all purpose cleaner and disinfectant. It will remove rust stains and whitens and deodorizes clothes. Add along with your regular laundry soap for extra power on laundry day.

Olive oil is a great cleaner and polisher for wood surfaces. Just remember to buy the cheaper grade of olive oil. You can also mix olive oil with lemon or vinegar. For wood furniture mix 1 cup of vinegar with 1 teaspoon of oil.

Tea Tree Oil helps to deodorize and wipe out mildew and fungus. Just mix a few drops in plain water.

Table Salt is great for scouring ovens, removing stains like red wine, blood and chocolate.


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