Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate safe?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a very common ingredient in nearly all shampoos, soaps, and even many toothpastes. You can even find it in Angel Food cake mixes. This is the ingredient responsible for the foaming action of the product. But, is it safe?

Until about a year ago, I thought the answer to this was yes. I had not yet done research on this chemical, but just in reading a few comments online, it seemed some people were OK with it and others were not.

When I finally had time to research SLS, I was surprised to learn it was contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.  This is a cancer causing by-product of the ethoxylation process, a process that makes otherwise harsh ingredient gentle. However, because it is not an original ingredient, this by-product is not listed on the ingredient list.

In this article by Dr. Mercola, he further explains the health risk with using SLS, and its cousins Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES, and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS), citing some of the over 16,000 studies showing toxicity. The Environmental Working Group gives SLS a moderate hazard rating for cancer, organ system toxicity and others. So it’s not the worst, but not the best.

Should you avoid SLS?
Anything you put on your skin is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and goes directly to your organs. It’s also important to note that 1 incidence of using SLS is likely OK, but the cumulative effect is what is worry-some.  While the amount in your shampoo, toothpaste, body wash, hand soap, etc. may be ‘safe’ amounts when used alone, using them all at one time could cause your exposure to jump into the unsafe level zone. But the cumulative effect has never been studied.

We do our best to avoid it in our house due to the cancer link. If you can’t avoid it entirely, limit your exposure by using less of the product containing it. Most people use twice as much soap product as needed.

How to avoid SLS
Read labels! Know what to avoid, as SLS can have other names, including Sodium dodecyl sulfate, Sulfuric acid, Sodium salt sulfuric acid. I use Dr. Bronner’s  bar soap in the shower and make my own foaming hand soap, which also makes a great foaming body wash. For shampoo I am currently using Kiss My Face, Frequent Use which is SLS and paraben free and I love it.

RELATED ARTICLES
Kiss My Face hair care review
Dioxanes found in popular organic body care products
California Baby product review
Badger Sunscreen product review

Badger sunscreen product review

EWG's top-rated sunscreen

I finally got a chance to try some of this stuff. We ran out of our California Baby and TruKid Sunny Days sunscreen and since Badger once again took the top spot in the Environmental Working Group’s annual sunscreen guide, I ordered some. Since my son has sensitive skin and I have eczema, I went with the unscented variety. I loved that I could pronounce all the ingredients and knew exactly what they were.

We have used it several times now and are really pleased with it. On Sunday, we really put it to the test at my sister-in-law’s pool which had no shade. We slathered each other up (2 kids, 2 adults), and since its water proof for at least 40 minutes, I reapplied before each hour we were in the sun. I didn’t take the time to reapply, but was not splashing as much as the kids either. My hubby (who has had a few melanoma removed) put it on waaay thick and wore a hat.

The results? No one got burned at all, I didn’t even notice any color on anyone. I got just a little color (color, not pink or burned!), but was the only one who did not reapply during the 4 hours we were in the sun. Which was fine by me, I needed a little color on my pasty white skin. So, we are very pleased with the results.

This is a mineral-based, zinc oxide sunscreen, so it goes on white, but rubs in well and does not leave a white coating. I like that it goes on white because I can see if I missed any spots. The benefit of zinc oxide is that it is a physical barrier so reflects and scatters the harmful rays. You can almost see the barrier because of the way it repels water, and because you can see it repelling the water, I don’t feel as if the sunscreen is washing away as we swim. It also goes on easier than chemical sunscreen if you are reapplying on wet skin.

Badger sunscreens are safe for infants too, though if you are using on an infant under 6 months, check with your pediatrician.

The Badger website is very interesting and full of information about their products, ingredients and the company itself.  A few things I took away: 

  • A little about nanoparticle vs. micronized particles. I was concerned about nanotechnology and those concerns were relived after reading this great explanation in their FAQ section. 
  • Badger is a small family business. They provide free organic lunches and bad mitten games to their employees; and support charitable giving by giving the greater of 10% of before-tax profits or $10,000 to a variety of charities. Love this! 
  • And their sunscreen blocks UVA, UVB and UVC rays – UVC does not reach the Earth, but is good for pilots and astronauts! So interesting! 
  • I also did not realize the span of their product offerings – I’ve used this sunscreen and the bug balm – but they also offer soaps, body butter, balms, oils and more.

Badger sunscreen is available in a lightly scented SPF 30, unscented SPF 30, sunscreen with bug repellent SPF 30, lightly scented SPF 15 and a face stick SPF 30.

Where to buy? Many online retailers carry this, but right now it can be a little harder to come by since it’s in such high demand. Best bets: Amazon, Vitacost, Diapers.com, or try your local organic grocer, health store or Whole Foods.

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Safer sunscreens 2010
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Safe sunscreens 2010

EWG's top-rated sunscreen

I never really thought about what was in my sunscreen until I had kids. Before my daughter was born, I was just beginning to learn about all the harmful chemicals in soap , shampoo, etc. So when it was time for us to take our yearly family beach trip, I sought out a safe sunscreen. Then I had to do the leg work myself, but didn’t really know what to look for either.

Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group came to the rescue 4 years ago with their Safer Sunscreen Guide. Every year, new research is available, shifting the list around a bit. This year, research shows that vitamin A may speed up the development of cancer. See their whole list of surprising facts about sunscreen.

And you definitely will not find the widely used and available  Baby Blanket, Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic, Panama Jack or Neutrogena anywhere near the top of the list, in fact, you will find these at the bottom of the list. Blue Lizard and Bull Frog are middle of the road. These chemicals sunscreens contain ingredients that are possible carcinogens. To me, it does not make any sense to slather on something that may cause cancer in an effort to protect yourself from something (the sun) that may cause cancer.

Non-nanoparticle zinc oxide based sunscreens are deemed to be the safest and most effective sunscreens available today. Zinc oxide is all natural offering sun protection without the harmful chemicals. And like other skin care products, you should be able to pronounce all the ingredients and it should be free of PEG compounds, parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrance and any other active ingredient other than zinc oxide (or possibly titanium dioxide).

This year, EWG tested 500 sunscreens and can only recommend 39 of them for safety and effectiveness. That’s 8%. Pretty lame.

Here is a list of the top-10 sunscreens as tested by the EWG, and the EWG rating (0-2 = low concern, 3-6 = some concern, 7-10 = high concern).
1. Badger Sunscreen Face Stick, SPF 30, Unscented 1
2. Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, SPF 30 Lightly Scented 1
3. Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, Unscented, SPF 30 1
4. California Baby Sunblock Stick No Fragrance, SPF 30+ 1
5. Loving Naturals Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1
6. Purple Prairie Botanicals Sun Stick, SPF 30 1
7. Purple Prairie Botanicals SunStuff, SPF 30 1
8. Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1
9. Soleo Organics Atlantis Resort All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1 -
10. Soleo Organics Wyland Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1

…….I have to toss CA Baby in here as it is one of my favorite lines
19. California Baby Sunblock Stick Everyday/Year-Round, SPF 30+ 2
20. California Baby Sunscreen Lotion Everyday/Year-Round, SPF 30+ 2
21. California Baby Sunscreen Lotion No Fragrance, SPF 30+ 2
22. California Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+, Citronella 2

Want to see the rest of the list and see how your sunscreen stacks up? Visit EWG’s mini-site dedicated to sunscreens and sunscreen safety.

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Natural, homemade deodorant recipe

Roughly 7 years ago, I learned that aluminum was linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and even more recently learned of it’s potential link to breast cancer. So I set out to rid my life of aluminum. Aluminum is the active ingredient in most antiperspirants, so I tried several natural deodorants. Some worked better than others, but nothing seemed to work for my husband. He either broke out or smelled. Neither of which was acceptable.

Then I found a homemade recipe that got rave reviews, so I figured, “Why not?”

The recipe is easy to make, inexpensive and it WORKS! My husband is amazed and has been singing the praises of this homemade deo. He has not had any odor issues since using this, even after playing basketball.

Coconut oil has antibacterial properties, so it will not spoil and is likely the main reason this is so effective since body odor is caused by bacteria. I’m just beginning to see all the wonderful uses for coconut oil.

The recipe is very simple:
5-6 tablespoons of coconut oil (use in solid form)
¼ cup baking soda
¼ cup cornstarch or arrowroot powder

Mix together the baking soda and cornstarch (or arrowroot powder) until blended. Add in the coconut oil until you get the same consistency as regular deo. You can store in a lidded container and apply with your fingertips or an empty deodorant container (which is the easiest to use). 

To avoid any redness, I reduced the amount of baking soda just slightly and added some Shea butter (probably 1 tsp – 1 tbls).

Also, check out the comments in the post to find other ideas of things to add. Like a drop or so of tea tree oil for added antibacterial properties, or essential oils for a nice scent.

Can your cell phone give you cancer?

samsung_impression

The Samsung Impression a877 had the lowest radiation level

According to a new 10-month long research study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the answer is maybe. One thing is definite, cell phone do emit radiation, and at levels that concern scientists for possible cancer risks. Whether or not cell phone radiation poses a health risk remains uncertain, however, several studies have suggested increased risk of brain and mouth cancers, as well as an increase in children’s behavior problems, among frequent cell phone users.

The EWG studied over 1,000 cell phone sold in the US and rank the top 10 best (low radiation) and 10 worst (high radiation) cell phones. You can search the EWG’s cell phone radiation database to see how your phone rates.

What about the little chip that promised to diffuse radiation away from your head? According to the research, they do little if any good because it weakens the phone’s signal making it work harder, thus uses more radiation to do so.

What can you do to limit exposure?
There are ways to reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation. The EWG has a printable guide for reducing exposure to cell phone radiation.  

Send a message to manufacturers by purchasing phones with the lowest level of radiation.

You can also get involved by telling the FCC and the FDA to modernize cell phone radiation standards to the lowest level possible.

For more info: Read the entire Cell Phone Radiation Report.

Safer Sunscreens 2009

It’s that time of year again — planning for beach trips, the pool, biking, or whatever outdoor activities interest you.

california-baby-spf-30-natural-sunscreen

Last year, the folks at the Environmental Working Group published a report on the effectiveness of sunscreens. They studied 952 common sunscreens and found 4 out of 5 do not do their job.  Additionally, 53% of sunscreen make claims on the bottle that are simply inaccurate and are terms the FDA has said are unacceptable terms or misleading. 

They also found zinc and titanium based formulas to be the most effective.

What to avoid. Avoid ingredients like those with anything “–paraben” in the name, fragrance (likely contains phthalates), PEG compounds, polyethylene, oxybenzone,  triethanolamine, BHT,  benzyl alcohol, and others. This is not a complete list, just some of the ones you may find. Definitely consult the EWG’s Cosmetic Databse for more information on specific ingredients.

Again, read those labels and remember formulas frequently change!

Here is a little summary on the EWG website, plus their recommended top 10 sunscreens that are safe and effective. They also offer a list of “common brand names” and specifically which product in that line is safe and effective. **A little disclaimer though about the cosmetic database.** I have personally found discrepencies in the ingredients they have listed in their database than what is actually listed on the bottle. This is because formulas change frequently and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with each and every product. So definitely still consult the databse as a guide, but as always read the labels before you buy!!

EWG’s recommended Top 10 sunscreens (and their hazard rating. Rating is based on level of hazard, 0 being safest, 10 being highest hazard)
1. Keys Soap Solar Rx Therapeutic Sunblock, SPF 30   0
2. Trukid Sunny Days Facestick Mineral Sunscreen UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum, SPF 30+  0
3. California Baby Sunblock Stick No Fragrance, SPF 30+   0
4. Badger Sunscreen, SPF 30       0
5. Marie Veronique Skin Therapy Sun Serum    1
6. Lavera Sunscreen Neutral, SPF 40     1
7. Vanicream Sunscreen, SPF 35      1
8. UV Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+      1
(there is also a Baby version)
9. Sun Science Sport Formula, SPF 30     1
10. Soleo Organics Sunscreen all natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+  1

From 10 Common Brands (and their hazard rating. Rating is based on level of hazard, 0 being safest, 10 being highest hazard). If more than 1 product is listed for that entire brand’s line, I put the range, so be sure to get the ones specified below)
** Please note, these are safer common brands (meaning easier to find), does not mean they are free of harmful ingredients. Other than California Baby, I would personally NOT recommend any of the below or use these for myself or my family.
1. Blue Lizard anything without oxybenzone    (1-7)
2. California Baby anything with SPF 30+     (0-2)
3. CVS with zinc oxide       (2-7) 
4. Jason Natural Cosmetics Sunbrellas Mineral Based Sunblock  (1-7)
5. Kiss My Face “Paraben Free” series     (2-7)
6. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock     (2-7)
7. Olay Defense Daily UV Moisturizer (with zinc)    (2-7)
8. SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense     (2-3)
9. Solar Sense Clear Zinc for Face      (1-2)
10. Walgreens Zinc Oxide for Face, Nose, & Ears   (1-7)

Personally, I am a HUGE fan of TruKids and California Baby. TruKids is a little less expensive. My husband and I both used it last year during our traditional week at the beach and I use California Baby on my then 2 year old. She enjoyed using the TruKids face stick on all 3 of our faces! None of us got burned, and our relatives who used Bull Frog did get burned.

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Kiss My Face Hair Care: Product Review

I was looking for a 1, 4 dioxane-free shampoo for my husband and I to try. He has had some skin cancers removed, so anything I discover is a known or probably carcinogen, it’s out the door. I found out that Kiss My Face’s shampoos were dioxane free, so I picked up the Miss Treated Shampoo and conditioner for myself and the Big Body one for my husband. Of course, the line is free from parabens, phthalates, SLS and other yuckies that I wanted to avoid.

The Miss Treated Shampoo I absolutely LOVE. It’s hydrating, smells nice and rinses clean, so there is no residue weighing down my hair.

The Miss Treated Conditioner is FANTASTIC. The first time I used it, my hair felt like silk as I was rinsing it out and was very soft even after using a blow dryer. My hair is long (I am growing it out for Locks of Love), so the ends do get dry. To help this, I will sometimes put a very small dab of the conditioner on my hands and comb through my hair, rubbing a little more on the ends. It helps immensely.

It also lasted a long time – a couple months for 1 bottle and I have very long hair. So I was please with that as it was more expensive than the Whole Foods 365 stuff I had been using. But the end result, no dioxanes and soft hair, is worth it.

The shampoo sells for about $8 at my Whole Foods or $6.42 at Amazon. The conditioner sells for the same.

I give the product an A for delivering results!

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Dioxanes found in popular organic body care products

study released in March 2008 commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a watchdog group, analyzes leading “natural” and “organic” brand shampoos, body washes, lotions and other personal care products for the presence of the undisclosed carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane. A reputable third-party laboratory known for rigorous testing and chain-of-custody protocols, performed all testing.

Excerpt which describes the process of how 1,4 dioxane makes its way into body care products:
Ethoxylation, a cheap short-cut companies use to provide mildness to harsh ingredients, requires the use of the cancer-causing petrochemical Ethylene Oxide, which generates 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product. 1,4-Dioxane is considered a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer” under proposition 65, and has no place in “natural” or “organic” branded personal care products. 1,4-dioxane is also suspected as a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant, among others, according to the California EPA, and is a leading groundwater contaminant. Although previous studies have revealed 1,4-Dioxane is often present in conventional personal care products, this new study indicates the toxin is also present in leading “natural” and “organic” branded products, none of which are certified under the USDA National Organic Program.The group is calling for the mislabeling of organic products. 1,4 dioxanes have no place in true organic products.

 

Some of the Leading Brands Found to Contain 1,4-Dioxane:
JASON Pure Natural & Organic
Giovanni Organic Cosmetics
Kiss My Face
Nature’s Gate Organics.

Brands Found not to Contain 1,4-Dioxane:
All USDA Certified brands tested in this study were 1,4-Dioxane-free, including:
Dr. Bronner’s
Sensibility Soaps
(Nourish)
Terressentials

All German Natural “BDIH” Certified brands tested were found to be 1,4-Dioxane-free:
Aubrey Organics 
Dr. Hauschka

How to avoid 1,4 dioxane
To avoid 1,4-Dioxane, the OCA urges consumers to search ingredient lists for indications of ethoxylation including: “myreth,” “oleth,” “laureth,” “ceteareth,” any other “eth,” “PEG,” “polyethylene,” “polyethylene glycol,” “polyoxyethylene,” or “oxynol,” in ingredient names. In general, the OCA urges consumers to avoid products with unpronounceable ingredients. “When it comes to misbranding organic personal care products in the US, it’s almost complete anarchy and buyer beware unless the product is certified under the USDA National Organic Program,” says Cummins.

The products/brands tested can be found here with the level of 1,4-Dioxane detected, if any, along with ethoxylated ingredients listed on the label. Note, only certain products of these lines were tested, not all products in the line and certainly not all natural and organic products were tested.

Here are the products from the study that were found to be FREE of 1,4 dioxane. However, one still needs to read labels to avoid parabens and synthetic fragrance (due to the possibility of the presence of phthalates). All dish soaps  tested were found to have 1,4 dioxanes present. Surprisingly, so were a couple conditioners. And oddly enough, some brands, like Kiss My Face had 1,4 dioxane present in their body wash tested, but not the shampoo.

1,4 Dioxane Free Products
Alba Very Emollient Bath & Shower Gel (Island Citrus) (EWG rates a 4, contains fragrance and parabens)
Aubrey Organics Natural Baby & Kids Bath Soap 
Aubrey Organics Swimmer’s Normalizing Shampoo 
Avalon Organics Nourishing Shampoo
Burt’s Bees Body Wash 
Circle of Friends Buenas Noches Bubble Bath (EWG ranks a 6, contains fragrance)
Desert Essence Body Wash  
Desert Essence Organics Hair Care Lemon Tea Tree Shampoo 
Dr. Bronner’s and Sundog’s Magic Orange Lavender Organic Lotion
Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Organic Fair Shikakai Conditioning Hair Rinse
Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Organic Fair Trade Shikakai Soap 
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps 18-in-1 Hemp Almond Pure Castile Soap
Dr. Hauschka Apricot and Sea Buckthorn Shampoo  
Dr. Hauschka Body Wash Fresh
EO All Purpose Soap
EO Nourishing Shower Gel 
EO Volumizing Shampoo
Head Organics Clearly Head Shampoo 
Kiss My Face Obsessively Organic Whenever Shampoo 
Lamas Soy Hydrating Shampoo for Chemically Treated, Dry or Damaged Hair 
Nature’s Gate Organics Fruit Blend Shampoo 
Nourish Food for Your Healthy Skin Organic Chai Vanilla Body Wash from Sensibility Soaps 
Nourish Organic Vanilla Yogurt Body Butter 
Origins Ginger Up Aromatic Conditioner
Pure Basic Natural Bath & Body Wash Wild Banana Vanilla (contains fragrance) 
Shikai Natural Everyday Shampoo 
Shikai Natural Shampoo 
TerrEssential Organic Baby Wash 
TerrEssential Organic Body Wash Organic Cool Mint 
TerrEssential Organic Fragrance-Free Facial Cleanser 
TerrEssential Organic Sultry Spice Pure Earth Hair Wash 
Zia Fresh Cleansing Gel with Sea Algae
Zia Skin Basics Daily Moisture Screen SPF 15 with Cucumber  
 
Hand soap
Avalon Organics Glycerin Hand Soap 
Burt’s Bees Citrus & Ginger Root Hand Soap 
Method Hand Wash 
TerrEssential Organic Real Soap for Hands Jammin’ Spice with Organic Tea Tree Oil

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Is it safe to microwave plastic?

The Milwaukee Wisconsin Sentinel conducted a study on the safety of microwaving plastics. Surprisingly, BPA (bisphenol-A) was found to be leaching from many types of plastic, not just polycarbonate. And these plastic containers are labeled “microwave safe,” a claim that is commonly used yet not regulated.

Excerpt:
“The amounts detected were at levels that scientists have found cause neurological and developmental damage in laboratory animals,” the paper reports. “The problems include genital defects, behavioral changes and abnormal development of mammary glands. The changes to the mammary glands were identical to those observed in women at higher risk for breast cancer.”

Makes me glad I recently ditched my plastic for glass, and I usually remove the plastic lid before putting in the microwave and ensure no plastic is touching food in the microwave.

BPA was also found in the plastic trays of microwavable meals, microwavable soup containers and plastic baby food packaging. Even in plastics labeled #1, 2 and 5, which are generally considered safe and typically BPA-free.

This researcher simply states
“There is no such thing as safe microwaveable plastic,” said Frederick vom Saal, a University of Missouri researcher who oversaw the newspaper’s testing.

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FDA ruling on BPA Flawed

So I am a little late posting this. But in a Washington Post article on Oct 29, several scientists and government agencies state the FDA did not take into consideration all the evidence regarding the safety of BPA. An except from the article states:

“In a highly critical report to be released today, the panel of scientists from government and academia said the FDA did not take into consideration scores of studies that have linked bisphenol A (BPA) to prostate cancer, diabetes and other health problems in animals when it completed a draft risk assessment of the chemical last month. The panel said the FDA didn’t use enough infant formula samples and didn’t adequately account for variations among the samples.”

This is no shock to say the least, but it is very, very troubling that the government agency who is supposed to protect consumers from toxins, sides with the plastics industry time and time again. The studies ignored in the FDA’s assessment reaffirms that BPA has no place in infant products, or in any other form that would ever come in contact with foods and beverage.

Canada has declared BPA a hazardous substance and has banned BPA in baby bottles.   Retailers including Target, Wal-Mart and Babies R Us have promised to stop selling baby bottles containing BPA.

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