A look at toxins in the cosmetics industry ~ Part 1 Phthalates
If you follow me on my FaceBook page: AndreaTheEssentialHomemaker, you'll notice I have officially turned crunchy. What I mean by that is that I am simply working on over hauling my home to reduce the amount of toxic exposure in products I use, specifically the ingredient identified as "fragrance". I make a lot of items, but I still buy products from the store. This journey didn't just start for me, I actually began several years when my son was diagnosed with eczema. I started looking at products that would help his condition so he wouldn't be so miserable. This "looking" has evolved over the years into what it is today....complete and total terror at the ingredient FRAGRANCE. Everything is scented it seems, everything. Companies make items that smell good, so you think it's clean and fresh. Let me first state that clean doesn't smell...clean is simply not dirty.
Why am I so terrified of the word fragrance? Because it is completely made from synthetic ingredients, some upwards of hundreds of chemicals to mimic smells we enjoy so that we buy products. These chemicals are untested, unregulated and no one has any idea how these hundreds of chemicals react when pooled together! Friends, I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated and confused. You're telling me that my favorite Gain smell, ah yes I do love that Gain scent, is not only unhealthy for me, but it's linked to allergies, auto-immune disease, Alzheimers, and cancer....and companies know this?! This is not okay.
I decided to begin a study on the word fragrance to have a foundation on how to do better and make better choices for myself. I am sharing my journey with you so that you can have some information to start your own research, to make decisions for yourself and your family.
First of all, what are phthalates? Phthalates salts or esters of phthalic acid....mmmmm, too sciencey.....phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl.....okay that is a little better....phthalates are used in many consumer products, including: Cosmetics and personal care products....now we are getting somewhere... phthalates are a group of chemicals used in hundreds of products, such as toys, vinyl flooring and wall covering, detergents, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products, such as nail polish, hair sprays, aftershave lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes and other fragrance preparations. You can even have your blood tested to determine the number of phthalates in circulation. The average number is over 100. 100 different chemicals called phthalates in my blood right now?! Whoa. Here it is, where I started this journey.
Now for the sake of my own sanity, I am going to focus on phthalates in fragrances. I'm already angry at this point at companies knowing this group of chemicals is downright awful for us and still they continue to poison us for their own monetary gain. I digress....
Phthalates are used to dissolve raw materials when making fragrance oils. They have been used for many decades in a myriad of pharmaceuticals, household and industrial products. Recently, there have been concerns that high levels of Phthalates can cause a host of health issues, not limited to auto-immune issues, allergies, brain diseases and cancers. As man-made industrial chemicals, they are used as solvents in cosmetics and other consumer products, they can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system — particularly the developing testes — according to animal studies. As “chemicals of high concern” for their endocrine disrupting effects and their developmental or reproductive toxicity. Phthalates are weak endocrine disruptors and androgen blocking chemicals. This means that when phthalates are absorbed into the body, they can either mimic or block female hormones, or in males, suppress the hormones involved with male sexual development, and they cross the placenta. Okay, at this point I am alarmed and disturbed. These things have got to go!
So what do I do now? What can I do to reduce my exposure to these toxic chemicals? I obviously cannot totally omit these chemicals from my life because they are literally everywhere, in every thing. However, by adopting my favorite principle of Good, Better, Best, I can reduce my exposure. First, learn to read labels. If a product label lists "fragrance" put it back on the shelve. Second, find alternative products or find someone who makes what you want/need and sells it. Third, learn to make our own. While I understand we all have a million and one things going on at any given time, I find that homemaking products is very easy and takes less time than driving to the store to shop. Plus, many ingredients overlap and are used for several homemade products.
Where did I start to make improvements to reduce phthalate exposure? I chose to start with products that I am in contact with the most and the longest.....laundry, skin care and dishes. In my mind, sheets, clothes, skin care and food storage as well as how dishes are washed seemed to be areas in which I am exposed to around the clock as well as ingesting. Step one, pick areas to improve-check.
One of my favorite tools to use on this journey is the Think Dirty app. I am able to scan barcodes right at the store while I am shopping very quickly and easily. I can even type in product names at home in the search box when my curiosity spikes and I'm thinking of what I would like to replace next. The app has helped me find laundry detergent to keep on hand in case I can't make laundry soap for whatever reason, in addition to helping me identify a dishwasher detergent and fabric softener that are better options than what I have been using! Not everything on the store shelf is in their data base, but they do have a lot, making it a great place to start. Step two, identify products from those areas that need replaced-check.
Now I'm not saying throw everything in your house away and start over, that's crazy town. I am simply recommending you do your own research and make decisions for yourself on what you should do when it's time to buy more. As for me, I am choosing to replace items in my home with better options when they run out, not before. I have replaced my beloved Gain, toxic score 8, with a better option of a local store bought option that has a score of 3. I have also replaced my Downey free with a toxic score of 6 with an option that's a 3 as well. I feel better already! Step three, make better choices-check.
I love Dr. Bronner's, please look at this company for you own research. I make laundry soap with Dr. Bronner's castile bar soap that is made of ingredients that score 0, yes a ZERO, making this my best option for that area of interest. I keep both homemade laundry soap and a store bought laundry detergent option with a low toxic score on hand and at the ready in case life happens because it always does and we all need clean clothes. Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap is so incredibly versatile. The baby mild specifically is what I chose to use in my hand soap, body wash, dish soap and more. By using this option, I can add my own fragrances as I wish in each product I make to tailor the products to my needs.
Wait a second......what? Did I just say that I'm adding fragrances, after just explaining how awful fragrances are?! No, I'm not crazy. Hear me out. The fragrances I am referring to are all natural, botanical sourced fragrances. I am specifically referring to essential oils. Not all essential oils are the same, for the above listed reasons, so I suggest you very carefully research what you will use. The majority of essential oils on the market today are fragrance grade....aka toxic chemicals that smell good. I only use essential oils that are tested for purity. I choose this brand as they continue to earn my trust with total transparency and integrity to use in all my homemade products that need them. Each bottle is stamped with a lot number on the bottom that can be entered into this site to see the third party testing result for purity. Future blog on this coming down the pike. Step four, Find ingredients that have virtually no toxic impact to use as often as possible-check.
Okay, so I feel like I am on the right path and making improvements. As I work through other areas of the house, I will share what I come up with. Of course I use my own Essential Homemaker skin care products because they have a toxicity score of 0. The skin care industry is full of synthetics like fragrances and more I've yet to discuss. Since these chemicals soak into our bodies and enter the blood stream it's important to reduce our exposure if at all possible.
This is part 1 in a series that I will be writing on the common toxic load from household products we use.
I hope this information blesses you in some way.