This month a California jury awarded $417 million to a woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson and Johnson baby powder for decades. The jury found sufficient evidence that talc, the main ingredient in baby powder, causes ovarian cancer. In other states, several other juries came to the same conclusion, and awarded plaintiffs huge settlements.
This case highlights the mistaken level of assurance Americans have in the safety of their personal care products. The Environmental Working Group, a non profit organization dedicated to reporting the dangers of toxins in consumer products, said, “American families assume personal care products on the market today have been tested by the federal government. Unfortunately, the personal care products industry remains largely unregulated. The FDA does not even require safety testing of ingredients in personal care products before they are used.”
Talc is just the tip of the iceberg. Toxic ingredients lurk in most conventional personal care products. The short list includes parabens, phthalates, triclosan, fragrance, toluene, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, and more. Most of these are endocrine disruptors, meaning they have negative effects on our hormones. They can suppress thyroid activity, predisposing us to weight gain, and mimic estrogen, increasing the risk of breast and reproductive cancers. Companies that use these ingredients state that the amount is too small to be harmful. However, with the majority of conventional products containing them, we need to consider our cumulative exposure.
We highly recommend avoiding any products that include parabens and phthalates, as they both are linked to reproductive disorders and increased risk of breast cancer. Parabens are in lotions, hair products, and makeup, and very high levels of phthalates are found in fragrance and nail polish.
“Both phthalates and parabens act on estrogen pathways, which in humans have been associated with such varied effects as decreased sperm count, endometriosis and insulin resistance,” reports the Washington Post. In one study, the CDC tested for parabens and phthalates in almost 300 subjects, and every single one of them tested positive. These toxins are everywhere and they’re getting inside us.
Read ingredient labels carefully when purchasing conventional products. It’s easier to turn to the many non toxic brands available in health food stores like Whole Foods and through representatives. Some of our favorite brands include Dr Hauschka, Pure Haven, Ilia, and Mineral Fusion. There are many that we have not yet tried yet though! For more information, and to check the safety of your current products, see www.ewg.org/skindeep.
Fragrances are especially toxic. Using scented detergent, softener, and dryer sheets expose you and your family to toxic fragrance concoctions all day and night. A great first step would be to switch to fragrance free laundry products, like Arm and Hammer, Hex, and Norwex’s Ultra Power Plus. Instead of using toxic perfumes, switch to products that use essential oils for scent. You can find many body sprays and lotions scented with essential oils at health food stores. Also check Young Living to order top quality essential oils online.
The bottom line is that you need to be as careful with your personal and home care products as you are with your food.