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Frightful Chemicals in Your Personal Care, Home, and Cleaning Products!

Dawn Antibacterial Hand Soap and Dish Soap Bottles

Triclosan is in Dawn

Yes, hair-raising movies and spooky Halloween decor might send a chill up your spine, but you should be just as frightened of some of the ingredients found in your personal care, home, and cleaning products! I know I was when I did an inventory of how many products have undesirable chemicals in my home.

Check out these horrific ingredients with real health and environmental concerns. They’ll scare you into reconsidering what you buy and use!

Fragrance. Pumpkin-scented candles, fig soap, pomegranate hand wash… Don’t sound scary, right? But they are! These products often contain the generic term “fragrance” on the product label, which may refer to a frightening cocktail of chemicals that manufacturers use to hide their trade secrets. With the potential to cause health problems ranging from skin irritation to allergies to respiratory effects and worse, why not use ones with real, natural scents instead, such as botanical extracts and essential oils?

Glycol Ethers. According to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, these chemicals act as solvents or ingredients in a wide range of products, such as cosmetics, cleaning products, paint, and perfume. The problem is they also cause alarming health problems, such as fatigue, nausea, anorexia, tremor, and anemia. In animal studies, reproductive problems have been associated with them. So, steer clear of products with 2-Methoxyethanol, 2-Ethoxyethanol, and 2-Butoxyethanol, which are all glycol ethers!

Optical Brighteners: Ever seen white clothes give off a ghostly glow under black light? Well, optical brighteners are the very chemicals that make that effect happen! In natural light, they make things such as paper, clothing, and plastics appear whiter and brighter by transforming UV light and enhancing the blue light reflected. In eye make-up they reduce under-eye circles and in hair care products they add shine and reduce brassiness. So they are true “tricksters!” A host of frightful health and environmental problems have been associated with them. To learn more, check out my article on optical brighteners.

Triclosan. Trick or Triclosan? If you choose Triclosan, you’ll be surprised to learn that you may find it in your toothpaste, bedding, toys, dish soap, sink mats, clothing, and facial wash, to name just a few products! Triclosan is an antibacterial and bactericidal agent which has been used in so many products that consumers, doctors, and scientists alike have serious concerns over its health and environmental effects. To learn more, including trade names and research showing its negative effects, check out my article, “Triclosan: What It Is, How It’s Used, and Why You Should Avoid It.”

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). “Volatile” definitely sounds grim and potentially harmful, huh? You’re right. VOCs are a class of chemicals that when released into the air can form smog. Some may potentially cause serious health consequences when inhaled. Found in everything from cleaning chemicals to nail polish to paint, it’s best to educate yourself about the types of VOCs that may be in your products. In the meantime, scout out products with low VOCs or buy products without any at all.

So What Can You Do About These Frightening Chemicals?

If you know a product has any of the chemicals mentioned above, look for natural, green alternatives instead! If you’re not sure, check out the product label and the manufacturer’s website. If you notice the company doesn’t list the ingredients, be very skeptical! Other resources are product reviews (e.g., for my green cleaning product reviews check out About.com) or the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) product databases: Guide to Healthy Cleaning and Skin Deep Cosmetic Database. You can easily look up a product to see how it’s rated in terms of safety or a search a chemical and see the products that contain it.

So, unless you want to be haunted by making poor choices for you and your loved ones, be consumer aware and avoid any scary products from here on out!

Copyright © Karen Peltier and Well Gal, 2012-2013. All rights reserved.

Photo © Karen Peltier

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