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Toxic Chemicals In Beauty and Household Products (PHOTOS)

Huffington Post     First Posted: 07/22/10 12:40 PM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 06:00 PM ET

Toxic chemicals have infiltrated most facets of our lives. They are in everything from our toothpaste and favorite soap to our national parks, which can have an impact on you and the planet. So with lead in our lipstick, mercury in our fish, and weed killer in our drinking water, we here at HuffPost Green decided to examine the most used and highly toxic chemicals and their environmental ramifications.

Check out our slideshow of the toxic chemicals in your beauty and household products. Become your own eco-advocate and reconsider the chemicals in your life. Also, check out Annie Leonard's latest video on the topic, The Story Of Cosmetics. Vote on the scariest toxic chemicals and, as always, share your opinions in the comments.

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  • Phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA): Cosmetics, Fragrances, Bottles, Plastic Wrap, Food Storage Containers

    <strong><a href="http://notaguineapig.org/page.cfm?tagID=55504 " target="_hplink">Phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA)</a></strong> are endocrine disruptors, also called <a href="http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/community-news/toxic-cleaning-products-chemicals-461109?src=rss" target="_hplink">gender benders</a>, that can cause breast and prostate cancer, infertility, metabolic disorders, disrupt thyroid function and even low birth weight. They are found in everything from fragrances, nail polish, food can linings, flooring and windows. <a href="http://climateprogress.org/2009/07/02/energy-and-global-warming-news-dump-the-saudi-arabia-of-solar-meme-the-environmental-toll-of-plastics/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+climateprogress%2FlCrX+%28Climate+Progress%29" target="_hplink">Phthalates</a> are employed as plasticizers in the production of packaging, which clogs landfills and leaks these toxic chemicals into the groundwater. The <a href="http://www.nrdc.org/health/home/airfresheners/contents.asp" target="_hplink">NRDC</a> is currently investigating phthalates in air freshners. <strong>More: </strong> Although the European Union already has laws in effect to ban the use of many <a href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/fbeinecke/phasing_out_phthalates_clearin.html" target="_hplink">phthalates</a>, in the United States companies are not required to list the chemicals in product ingredients as they are considered "trade secrets."

  • Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs): Pizza boxes, Nonstick Cookware, Floor Protectants

    This endocrine disruptor is present in pizza boxes, fast food containers, paints, roof treatments, floor protectants, and even nonstick cookware. PFCs linger in lakes and streams once released into the environment as the do not easily degrade into the environment. The <a href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/jmogerman/poisoning_flipper_chemicals_fl.html" target="_hplink">NRDC</a> describes the effect of PFCs on the environment. PFCs are often emitted into air and water and even circulate to the Artic from the sewers of major cities such as Cleveland and Chicago. The PFCs carry through the food chain as animals consume: in the fish that seals eat, and in the seals that polar bears consume. Waste water contaminated with PFCs has moved from Chicago's River into the Gulf of Mexico, thus infecting the dolphin population in the Gulf of Mexico. In Sarasota Bay, Florida, one scientist concluded that <a href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/jmogerman/poisoning_flipper_chemicals_fl.html" target="_hplink">80% of PFCs </a>were found in one mother dolphin's fatty tissue, which filtered into the milk for her newborn dolphins causing a toxic chain of contamination. In humans, <a href="http://notaguineapig.org/page.cfm?tagID=55504 " target="_hplink">PFCs</a> can cause liver, pancreatic, testicular and breast cancers and developmental and reproductive issues.

  • Mercury, Arsenic, Lead, Aluminum, Cadmium: Drinking Water, Fish, Lipstick, Dental Amalgams, Microwaves

    Mercury, arsenic, lead, aluminum and cadmium are neurotoxins found in fish, lipstick, old paint, batteries, microwaves and lightbulbs. Heavy metals are responsible for environmental contamination in our food and water supply and can be released into the air through the presence of <a href="http://www.grist.org/article/Coal-lotta-shakin-goin-on/" target="_hplink">coal ash</a>. The <a href="http://green.yahoo.com/blog/ecomii_healthy_living/52/10-environmental-toxins-to-avoid.html" target="_hplink">heavy metals</a> cause Alzheimer's, neurological disorders, arrhythmia, developmental and learning disabilities in children, low birth weight, and decreased white and red blood cell production.

  • Pesticides: Bug sprays, Produce, Meats

    The <a href="http://green.yahoo.com/blog/ecomii_healthy_living/52/10-environmental-toxins-to-avoid.html" target="_hplink">EPA</a> affirms that pesticides have been found in 50 to 95 percent of produce and meats in America. Pesticides have also been found in the <a href="http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/pesticides-travel-up-the-food-chain-straight-into-our-nat" target="_hplink">nation's national parks </a>originating from a spectrum of sources: from local sites to locations as far as in Asia. The highest degree of<a href="http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/pesticides-travel-up-the-food-chain-straight-into-our-nat" target="_hplink"> pesticides</a> were discovered in Glacier National Park (pictured), Sequoia National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Make your own <a href="http://green.yahoo.com/blog/huddlergreenhome/38/cheap-and-nontoxic-ways-to-get-rid-of-bugs.html" target="_hplink">nontoxic bug repellent</a>.

  • Triclosan: Toothpaste, Body Lotion, Hand Sanitizer, and Cutting Boards

    The FDA is currently examining the effects of <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/04/fda-finally-looking-at-triclosan.php" target="_hplink">Triclosan</a>, the chemical behind the anti-bacterial craze. Triclosan is in everything from toothpaste to body lotion, the foam inside shoe insoles and plastic cutting boards. It is responsible for altering hormone regulation, by disrupting thyroid function, and even makes bacteria resistant to antibiotics. <a href="http://green.yahoo.com/blog/daily_green_news/103/antibacterial-soap-an-imminent-threat-to-human-health-and-the-environment.html" target="_hplink">Triclosan</a> contaminates water, which damages ecosystems and wildlife. <strong><a href="http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/triclosan-free-substitutes-until-epa-regulates-as-endocrine-disruptor.html" target="_hplink">Pseudonyms</a>: </strong> don’t be fooled by Triclosan’s many pseudonyms- Irgasan DP-300, Lexol 300, Ster-Zac, Cloxifenolum, BioFresh, Microban. <strong>DIY Green:</strong> Read <a href="http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/triclosan-free-substitutes-until-epa-regulates-as-endocrine-disruptor.html" target="_hplink">Planet Green</a>’s suggestions on how to rid your life of triclosan. Suggestions include using basic hand soap, natural hand sanitizers (made from tea-tree based or vinegar-based products), and finding triclosan-free toothpaste. Read <a href="http://www.colgateprofessional.com/products/Colgate-Total-Advanced-Clean-Toothpaste/faqs" target="_hplink">Colgate</a>'s defense of its triclosan use.

  • Ethanol, Acetone, and Ethyl Acetate: Toxic Chemicals in Celebrity Fragrances

    Celebrity fragrances are packed with toxic chemicals such as ethanol, acetone and ethyl acetate, which are all chemicals cited by the EPA as hazardous waste. <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/feb/08/ethicalliving-beauty" target="_hplink">Ninety-five percent </a>of chemicals in perfumes are derived from petroleum. <a href="http://www.greenyour.com/body/cosmetics/perfume-and-cologne?category=9485" target="_hplink">Fragrances</a> have even been detected in the fatty tissue of fish and shellfish. These drastically dangerous scents can cause central nervous system disorders, kidney damage, respiratory failure and mucous membrane irritation. <a href="http://www.ecorazzi.com/2010/05/17/stinky-business-celebrity-scents-full-of-toxic-chemicals/" target="_hplink">Ecorazzi</a> cites J.Lo (by Jennifer Lopez), Acqua di Gio (Georgio Armani’s signature scent) and Halle (Halle Berry’s scent) as harmful perfumes.

  • VOCs: Housepaint, Air Freshners, and Cosmetics

    <a href="http://noimpactman.typepad.com/blog/2009/01/house-paint-tha.html" target="_hplink">VOCs</a>, volatile organic compounds, are commonly found in house paint. These air pollutants work like a gas. Formaldehyde, Toluene and Benzene are all VOCs. Because they exist like a gas, VOCs “off-gas” from the walls into the air. When blended with other pollutants in the sunlight, <a href="http://green.yahoo.com/blog/ecomii_healthy_living/110/green-up-your-bbq-this-4th-of-july.html" target="_hplink">VOCs</a> can cause ground-level ozone to form. VOCs can trigger cancer, eye and respiratory issues, headaches and impaired memory. VOCs are also found in air freshners, dry cleaning materials, and beauty cosmetics. <strong>DIY Green: </strong><a href="http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/10/affordable_low.php" target="_hplink">Treehugger</a> offers this fantastic list of low-VOC or No-VOC eco-paints.

  • Chlorine: Household Cleaners

    A highly toxic gas and widely used chemical agent, <a href="http://green.yahoo.com/blog/ecomii_healthy_living/52/10-environmental-toxins-to-avoid.html " target="_hplink">chlorine</a> is found in household cleaners and in trace amounts of drinking water. It can cause fluid in lungs, skin and eye burns, and Reactive Airways Dysfunction (RADS- a strain of asthma). When mixed with water, chlorine becomes chloroform, which can cause cancer, birth defects, fatigue, liver and kidney damage and is often present in hazardous waste and municipal waste treatment plant discharge.

  • Lead in Lipstick

    In 2007, the <a href="http://www.safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=223" target="_hplink">Campaign for Safe Cosmetics</a>, a coalition of environmental and health groups, evaluated <a href="http://notaguineapig.org/page.cfm?tagID=55504 " target="_hplink">33 popular lipstick brands</a> and found that 61 percent of the lipsticks had significant traces of lead. Brands include L’Oreal, Cover Girl and even Christian Dior’s $24 Addict lipstick. The FDA released a follow-up study, in 2009, which concluded that there were four times the levels of lead originally found in the lipstick brands. Most <a href="http://www.greenyour.com/body/cosmetics/lipstick" target="_hplink">lipsticks</a> contain petrochemicals, which pollute the environment by emitting hazardous chemicals into the air and water. Some lipsticks are made from palm oil, which depletes the rainforests and the rainforest wildlife, think orangutans, in Sumatra. With each use, the lead in lipstick contaminates the body and through this daily build up leaks into the environment. One doctor <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/fashion/28skin.html" target="_hplink">remarked</a>, "no level of lead exposure appears to be ‘safe.’"

  • Quaternary Amines: Shampoos, Fabric Softeners, Detergents

    Quaternary Amines are found in most shampoos, fabric softeners and detergents. In May, <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/05/new-study-suggests-cancer-causing-chemicals-in-drinking-water-comes-from-shampoo-detergent.php?campaign=th_rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+treehuggersite+%28Treehugger%29" target="_hplink">Treehugger</a> reported on a study that is currently investigating the effects of the nitrosamine chemical in contaminating water.

  • We're Not Guinea Pigs! A Brief History of the 1976 Toxic Substance Control Act

    <a href="http://www.notaguineapig.org/" target="_hplink">I’m Not A Guinea Pig</a> is a comprehensive website, from the <a href="http://www.edf.org/home.cfm? " target="_hplink">Environmental Defense Fund</a>, that lists <a href="http://www.notaguineapig.org/page.cfm?tagID=55504" target="_hplink">unsafe chemicals</a>, <a href="http://www.notaguineapig.org/page.cfm?tagID=55515" target="_hplink">untested chemicals</a>, and <a href="http://www.notaguineapig.org/page.cfm?tagID=55537" target="_hplink">solutions</a> to avoid harmful ingredients. As Congress reexamines the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, a law that was meant to require companies to examine the safety of chemicals used, the site is a valuable resource. Since the law’s inception, over <a href="http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/community-news/toxic-cleaning-products-chemicals-461109?src=rss#ixzz0t6VWVqjr" target="_hplink">62,000 chemicals</a> are untested that are currently on the market and <a href="http://notaguineapig.org/page.cfm?tagID=55537" target="_hplink">20,000 new commercial chemicals</a> have been created since 1976. Since the end of World War II, over <a href="http://www.safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=222" target="_hplink">85,000 chemicals </a> have been integrated into American products, 70% are in everyday household cleaners.

More: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is an excellent database of information about what's in our products, unsafe chemicals, and cosmetic laws. The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep is a search engine that enables you to check what's in your beauty products.


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