A few weeks ago the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that glyphosate, the main chemical in Monsanto’s bestselling weed killer Roundup, is linked to cancer in humans. This conclusion was reached by a panel of scientific experts from 11 countries after they had made “a comprehensive review of the latest available scientific evidence”.(International Agency for Research on Cancer – World Health Organization, 2015)
Glyphosate is now used in over 750 different week killers. According to the WHO report, the chemical is also routinely detected in the air, water, the foods we eat and feed to animals.
The prestigious journal Lancet Oncology, reported that glyphosate is linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer in humans and there is “convincing evidence” that it can cause cancer in lab animals. (Guyton, 2015)
Yet Monsanto continues to declare Roundup and glyphosate perfectly safe and our government refuses to allow GMO labeling – let alone banning it as many other countries have done.
Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” seeds have been genetically modified to be resistant to their best selling herbicide. Farmers who plant these seeds must then spray their crops with increasing amounts of Roundup to keep other weeds and plants from growing in their fields.
A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Because this involves the transfer of genes, GMOs are also known as “transgenic” organisms. – Institute for Responsible Technology
The first Roundup Ready genetically modified crops were soybean seeds introduced by Monsanto in 1996. Current Roundup Ready crops include soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, sorghum, and wheat.
Since Roundup Ready crop seeds are sterile, they have notoriously been referred to as “terminator seeds”. Farmers are unable to reuse the best seed from their current crops as they’ve done for centuries and instead must buy the most recent strain of seed from Monsanto each year. (Delano, 2009)
The prevalence of GMO crops in the US increases yearly. The US Department of Agriculture reports that herbicide tolerant (HT) soybean crops rose from 17% of US soybean acreage in 1997 to 68% in 2001 and 94% in 2014. Plantings of HT cotton increased from 10% in 1997 to 56% in 2001 and 91% in 2014. The adoption of HT corn, which had been slower in previous years, has accelerated, reaching 89% of US corn acreage in 2014. (USDA, 2014)
If you’re eating anything that isn’t organically grown or consuming processed foods, you’re inadvertently consuming a big dose of glyphosate. In 2005, the Grocery Manufacturers of America estimated that 75% of all processed foods in the US contain at least one genetically modified ingredient.
Ten years later, an estimated 80% of GMO crops worldwide are genetically engineered to survive being sprayed with massive levels of Roundup or other glyphosate-containing herbicides. As a result, 75% of the processed food available in the US likely are poisoned with glyphosate. (Food Democracy Now, 2015)
GLYPHOSATE CAN’T BE WASHED OFF PRODUCE
Glyphosate contamination in plants is systemic: Unlike many other agricultural chemical that are sprayed on crops, glyphosate is found in every cell of the plant.
You can’t wash it off no matter what cleaning method you use – and processed food and animal feed manufacturers who use GMO crops also can’t remove it. The glyphosate is INSIDE the plant, not a topical residue ON it.
To make the situation even more dangerous, farmers need to keep increasing the amount of glyphosate they spray on their crops because Roundup-resistant weeds are proliferating. And, in a double whammy, the US Environmental Protection Agency has significantly raised the levels of glyphosate it allows in food. (Mercola, 2014)
WHO’S THE FOOL?
Here’s the promised video!
Since it’s April 1st, this video clip of former Greenpeace member turned GMO lobbyist, Dr Patrick Moore, now one of Monsanto’s fools, is apt. Here he is in a recent interview with French TV station Canal + declaring that drinking glyphosate is so safe that, “you can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you”. Watch what happens when he’s offered a glass of it.
The Monsanto Chemical Works was founded in 1901 by John Francis Queeny, a former employee of a large wholesale pharmaceutical company. In 1902 the fledgling company sold its first product, an artificial sweetener it called Saccharin, to the Coca Cola Company. Even then, the government knew saccharin was toxic and sued to stop its manufacture – but lost in court. In 1905, Monsanto began to make a profit by selling vanillin and caffeine. In 1906, the US government started regulating and inspecting some food products but Monsanto made itself exempt from regulation by donating to politicians, research facilities, schools, and even the US Dairy Association – a practice it engages in to this day.
Monsanto is now a multi-billion dollar company with branches in 100 countries. It is the main producer of genetically modified crops and seeds in the world.
A sampling from this history to pique your interest:
Monsanto and their partners in crime Archer Daniels Midland, Sodexo and Tyson Foods write and sponsor The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009: HR 875. This criminal “act” gives the corporate factory farms a virtual monopoly to police and control all foods grown anywhere, including one’s own backyard, and provides harsh penalties and jail sentences for those who do not use chemicals and fertilizers. President Obama decided this sounded reasonable and gave his approval.
In recent decades, Monsanto has led an intense campaign of deception to get us to believe that Roundup and glyphosate are perfectly safe. So far, Monsanto has prevailed in the US.
In 2009, a French court ruled that Monsanto was guilty of falsely advertising Roundup as “biodegradable” and “environmentally friendly” and claiming it “left the soil clean”.
All these Monsanto claims are false.
Recent research has shown that glyphosate residues “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease”.
In Argentina, fertility problems, birth defects, miscarriages,and cancer rates have soared in farming communities where Roundup Ready corn and soybeans are grown. In the Argentine province of Chaco, birth defects quadrupled in the 10 years since GE crops were introduced. And a recent Norwegian study published in Food Technology demonstrated that GMO soy bean plants contain a poor nutritional profile AND high levels of glyphosate, leading the researchers to question both their safety and quality. (Mercola, 2014)
Tell Congress and the EPA to follow the lead of other countries by banning Roundup and getting glyphosate off our plates:
THE 12 MOST HARMFUL MONSANTO PRODUCTS (DeNicola, 2014):
This artificial sweetener provides sweetness without calories. Found widely in drinks, candies, cookies, medicines, gum, fruit spreads, toothpaste and more. Studies have shown that consuming artificially sweetened drinks and foods drive us to eat more. This may be because artificial sweeteners don’t make the body feel full or because the sweetness promotes the desire to keep eating.
Aspartame is another artificial sweetener Monsanto has produced since 1985. Numerous studies have demonstrated its health hazards and it has been banned twice by the FDA – yet it is still legally and widely used in 6,000 products worldwide, including diet sodas, sodas, yogurts, gum, sauces, drink powders, cereals and much more.
Aspartame has been found to greatly increase the risk of fast-paced kidney decline. It has also been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, brain damage (by leaving traces of methanol in the blood), an imbalance in the antioxidant/pro-oxidant status in the brain, brain tumors, and heart-related disease.
Polychlorinated biphenyls are in a family of man-made organic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. They were first manufactured in 1929 for use in plastics, cable insulation, caulking, adhesives and oil-based paints until they were banned in 1979 for being carcinogenic and contributing to a number of adverse effects on the human immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems. Although no longer manufactured, they continue to do damage. A 2011 study reported they are still being found in the blood of pregnant women.
Monsanto began manufacturing the synthetic polymer polystyrene in 1941. It is still in production and is widely used in food packaging (styrofoam). Polystyrene is non-biodegradable and comprises the majority of hazardous waste accumulating on our planet. Chronic exposure to it is tied to headache, depression, fatigue, and weakness.
DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) was a commonly used pesticide designed to combat malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. DDT has been linked to liver damage, infertility, and nervous system damage. It was banned in 1972 but can take many years to break down and is still being found in soils and waterways. Human exposure to DDT comes through eating contaminated fish and crops or through atmospheric deposition.
Dioxins are a group of chemically-related compounds that are among the most toxic chemicals known to science. Monsanto began promoting the use of chemical pesticides, including dioxins, in agriculture in 1945. The EPA has confirmed dioxins as a cancer hazard. They accumulate in the food chain and are primarily found now in meat and dairy products.
Agent Orange is an herbicide/ defoliant primarily known for its use by the US as a form of chemical warfare during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange caused over 400,000 deaths and 500,000 birth defects in Vietnam. It has caused health problems of some kind in over a million people. Agent Orange was contaminated with dioxin – something that Monsanto apparently knew about when it sold the compound to the US Government for use in that war.
Since a formal clean-up effort didn’t begin until 2012, damages from Agent Orange are still being felt. Some chemicals found in Agent Orange are also found in certain herbicides in use today.
Monsanto purchased a major oil refinery in 1955 and began producing petroleum-based fertilizers to apply to soils and plant tissues. Petroleum-based fertilizers destroy beneficial soil micro-organisms, eventually rendering the soil sterile and therefore fully dependent on external stimulants to produce crops. These fertilizers are used on farms around the world.
Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)
Monsanto developed the genetically modified hormone rBGH to inject into dairy cows to produce more milk. While artificially increasing cows’ milk production, rBGH also raises the animals’ levels of pus, antibiotic residues, and a cancer-accelerating hormone called IGF-1. When consumed by humans, rBGH acts as a cancer accelerator and has been linked to breast, colon and prostate cancer.
Monsanto was a pioneer in genetically modifying organisms and continues to be a major player in the field. The company began its initiatives in the early 1990’s with the claim that GMO’s help “feed the world”.
Genetically modifying organisms is dangerous is so many ways. If you want to read more, here are some articles on the topic recommended by Collective Evolution:
GMOs are prevalent in many crops – most notably corn, sugar beets, potatoes, soybeans, tomatoes, squash, golden rice, salmon and animal feeds.
The US Government has so far resisted all efforts to require the labeling of GMO crops and Monsanto, along with many other large corporations, has successfully poured funds into state efforts to require mandatory GMO labeling.
And it’s not even true that GMO crops are better at “feeding the world”. For example:
Roundup, also known as Glyphosate, is the most widely used herbicide around the world. Monsanto founded its agricultural chemicals division in 1970, with Roundup being its star product.
Glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor and has been demonstrated to be carcinogenic. Endocrine disruptors can cause development disorders, birth defects, and cancerous tumors.
Although banned in many countries outside the US, Roundup is approved and still widely used today to destroy and control weeds. It is now found in our groundwater, soil, streams, tissues, and the air.
Monsanto was even involved in the development of the first nuclear weapons. After acquiring Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories, Monsanto established a department that played a key role in the Manhattan Project from 1943 to 1945: researching methods for enriching uranium. The Manhattan Project was responsible for producing the atomic bombs the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the last days of WWII.
Parabens are frequently used as preservatives to prevent microbial growth and increase the shelf life of an estimated 13,200 cosmetic and skin care products. (Scheve, 2014)
Most of us apply parabens to our skins and perhaps even consume them daily. They’re ingredients in: (Scheve, 2014) (personal observation)
Cosmetics – such as moisturizers, lipsticks, lip balms, foundations, concealers, eye make ups, make up removers, self-tanners, hair dyes
Hygiene products – such as shampoos, conditioners, de-frizzers, volumizers, hair dyes, soaps, toothpastes, topical ointments, deodorants and anti-perspirants, shaving gels, sunscreens, anti-wrinkle creams, bandages and eye drops, personal lubricants, estrogen creams
Food products – such as salad dressing, mayonnaise, mustard, processed vegetables, frozen dairy products, soft drinks, baked goods and jellies
Pharmaceuticals – such as ointments and other products
Household and industrial products – such as textiles and glues
HOW CHEMICAL ENDOCRINE DISRUPTERS ARE HARMFUL
The 8 glands in our endocrine systems produce and release hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, development, tissue function, sleep, reproduction, sexual function and mood. Almost every cell in the body is affected by the endocrine system. A report issued in March 2013 jointly by the United Nations and the World Health Organization states that “Endocrine Disrupters (EDC’s) are a global threat to fertility and the environment.”
And a recent report from the Environmental Working Group says:
There is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies–increasing production of certain hormones, decreasing production of others, imitating hormones, turning one hormone into another, interfering with hormone signaling, telling cells to die prematurely, competing with essential nutrients,bindingto essential hormones, and accumulating in organs that produce hormones.
CHEMICAL NAMES OF PARABENS
These are various names of the parabens we’re absorbing or ingesting from products – if they’re ingredients in your products, you’ll usually find them listed toward the bottom of the list: (Lal, 2012)
Japanese Honeysuckle Extract
Several authors have noted that a growing number of beauty product companies are trying to make their products safer and have substituted Japanese honeysuckle extract for chemical parabens. This has led to some controversy since the preservative made from Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera Japonica)is actually a form of paraben and behaves in a very similar way to synthetic parabens. Honeysuckle extract is marketed as Plantservative. (Marta, 2012)
There’s hope: Some cosmetics companies are replacing parabens with grapefruit seed extract and Vitamin E; and essential oils like cinnamon, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon and tea tree are being distilled and turned into natural preservatives. (Lal, 2012)
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that parabens have hormone-disrupting qualities that mimic estrogen, interfering with the body’s endocrine system. The EPA has linked methylparabens in particular to metabolic, developmental, hormonal and neurological disorders, as well as to various cancers – especially breast cancer. (Mercola, 2012) (Johnson, 2011) For more information on a parabens-breast cancer link, see the Environmental Working Group’s EWG’s Skin Deep Database, and the articles by Mercola andJohnson.
There is evidence that the estrogen-mimicry effect of parabens decreases testosterone levels, sperm counts and daily production of sperm in rats. Testosterone was found to decrease in a dose-dependent manner related to paraben concentration. It is thought that parabens are also responsible for the increasingly early onset of puberty in children, damage to the DNA in sperm, and damage to mitochondrial function, causing male infertility. (Osman, 2012)
THE UNREGULATED COSMETICS INDUSTRY
From Safe Cosmetics (Breast Cancer Action, 2014):
Because testing is voluntary and controlled by the cosmetic manufacturers, many ingredients in cosmetic products are not tested for safety. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep states that 89 percent of ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel, the FDA, or any other publicly accountable institution (FDA 2000, CIR 2002). The absence of governmental oversight for this $35 billion industry means that companies routinely market products with ingredients that are poorly studied, not studied at all, or worse, known to pose potentially serious health risks. It’s time to protect consumers….
Many cosmetic companies argue that the level of a harmful chemical in any one product is not enough to harm you…. However, science is finding the timing of exposure is critical, and that even a very small dose of some chemicals can have serious consequences in children and young women who are still developing.
Moreover, we are rarely exposed to a chemical just one time. We may use the same product every day, several days a week, for months or years. In addition, we use dozens of personal care products daily, not just one. So while exposure from one product on one day may be small, we in fact use numerous products a day for extended periods of time. As a result, scientists are finding accumulations of chemicals such as parabens and phthalates in our bodies.
The unregulated cosmetics industry has publicly assessed only 11% of the 10,500 ingredients in personal care products. (The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2011)
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics partners with the Environmental Working Group to produce a cosmetic safety database. You can visit EWG’s Skin Deep Database to check the ingredients in the products you use or to find safer products for you and your family.
This searchable database checks the ingredients in more than 74,000 shampoos, makeups, deodorants, sunscreens and other personal care products with 50 toxicity and regulatory databases.
There’s even an iPhone and Android mobile app for their database so you can check out products while you’re shopping. The app has some nice features:
It lets you scan products’ barcodes to see EWG’s score for them.
With its History feature, you can find the scores of products you’ve previously scanned.
You can save your Favorites so you can easily check their scores.
THINK BEFORE YOU PINK
Breast Cancer Action coined the term pinkwasher in 2003 to refer to cosmetic and body care companies that promote pink ribbon products while also selling products that contribute to the disease. BCA first challenged Avon and then went on to focus on other companies that raise money in the name of breast cancer but manufacture body care products containing known carcinogens or reproductive toxins – such as parabens and phthlates. (Breast Cancer Action, 2014) (Think Before You Pink)
Directions Dot foundation on forehead, cheeks and chin. Blend using fingertips or a makeup sponge. Use with any CoverGirl Pressed Powder to help your look last.
Amazon.com – product information:
Safety Information Haircolor products can cause an allergic reaction which, in certain rare cases, can be severe. Therefore, before you use this product it is necessary to follow these precautions: Do not use if you have already had a reaction to a haircolor product; you have a sensitive, itchy or damaged scalp. If you have a tattoo, the risks of allergic reaction may be increased. Perform a skin allergy test 48 hours before each use of this product (see insert). Remember to buy your product 2 days ahead of time. Avoid contact with eyes and skin. If product gets into eyes, rinse immediately. Wear gloves provided in kit. Thoroughly rinse hair after application. Do not use over compound henna or progressive color. This product contains ingredients which may cause skin irritation on certain individuals and a preliminary test according to accompanying directions should first be made. This product must not be used for dyeing the eyelashes or eyebrows; to do so may cause blindness.
Warning: keep out of reach of children. For external use only. Avoid contact with eyes. Discontinue use if irritation develops. This product does not contain a sunscreen and does not protect against sunburn. Repeated exposure of unprotected skin while tanning may increase the risk of skin aging, skin cancer and other harmful effects to the skin, even if you do not burn.
Apply liberally, evenly smoothing onto your skin. Avoid contact with clothes until after the lotion is fully absorbed. Wash your hands after application. To optimize results, exfoliate before first use.
PARABEN-FREE PRODUCTS I LIKE AND USE
Lotions, shampoos and other skin products made for babies are less likely to contain carcinogens like parabens. Also, Australia and New Zealand’s EPA-equivalents are very strict so products made in those countries are less likely to contain parabens or other chemicals harmful to your health.
Every day is SUNday when it comes to UV rays! A daily dose of our lightweight, fragrance free, paraben free SPF 30 formula keeps skin nourished and soothed while providing broad spectrum protection from UV rays and environmental damage. Water resistant (80 min) and non-irritating to the eyes. Broad spectrum pure physical/mineral non-chemical sunscreen active ingredients.
Contains NO fragrance, parabens, phthalates, lanolin, mineral oil, petroleum or waxes
Pure physical non-chemical sunscreen actives Titanium Dioxide & Zinc Oxide, optimal for sensitive and young skin, even under 6 months of age
Broad spectrum protection: protects against UVA and UVB rays
Fragrance-free for ultra sensitive skin
Protects from environmental damage while nourishing, with antioxidant vitamins E & B5, grapeseed oil and avocado oil
Clinically tested, certified hypoallergenic and dermatologist approved
Gentle, water-resistant (80 minutes) and non-irritating to the eyes
Reprinted from the Safe Cosmetics Action Network (Safe Cosmetics Action Network, 2011)
Q. What are some of the most harmful ingredients in products?
A. Mercury (often listed as thimerosal on ingredient labels), found in some eye drops, ointment and deodorants; lead acetate, found in some hair dyes and cleanser; formaldehyde and toluene, found in nail products; petrochemicals, found in some hair relaxers, shampoos, mascara, perfume, foundation, lipstick and lip balm; coal tar, found in dandruff shampoos, anti-itch creams and hair dyes; placenta, found in some hair relaxers, moisturizers and toners; and phthalates, found in some nail polish, fragrances and hair spray.
All of these ingredients can be found in our brochure, Unmasked: 10 Ugly Truths Behind the Myth of Cosmetic Safety.
Q. So I should buy products labeled “all-natural”?
A. Looking for the words “natural” or “safe” won’t guarantee that the product you buy really is safe. That’s why we’re asking all manufacturers to sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics and pledge not to use chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other health harms and replace them with safer alternatives.
Q: I don’t see Arbonne, Avon, Mary Kay, Melaleuca or other similar companies listed on your website, even though they claim to be “safe,” “natural” or donate money to breast cancer research. What’s the deal?
A: Arbonne, Avon, Mary Kay and Melaleuca are aware of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics but have refused to sign it. If they are truly supporting women’s health and making “safe” products, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to sign the Compact. Hundreds of companies have signed the Compact, a commitment to manufacture personal care products free of known and suspected toxic chemicals.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics does not endorse or hand-pick “safe” companies to refer customers to. The growing list of safer companies on our Web site is comprised solely of companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. If you don’t see a company on the list, we encourage you to send a letter letting them know about the Compact and urging them to sign it.
For a sample letter to get you started, please check out the Materialssection of the website.
Q: How do I know if a particular product is safe?
A: To find safety information on specific products, check out EWG’s Skin Deep, the online database of nearly 25,000 personal care products. You can search the database for specific brands or ingredients, or for product types, like nail polish, to see how brands within that product class compare. Skin Deep will also tell you if a company has signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. We recommend supporting Compact signers over non-signers when possible because Compact-signing companies have made a meaningful commitment to create safer products.
Q. What are phthalates? Where are they found?
A. Phthalates (pronounced THA-lates) are plasticizing chemicals that are probable human reproductive or developmental toxins and endocrine disruptors. Phthalates cause reproductive birth defects in laboratory animals, particularly males.
Two phthalates often used in cosmetics (dibutyl and diethylhexyl) have been banned in the European Union. Unfortunately, phthalates are still found in some nail polishes and hair sprays, and are commonly hidden on ingredient labels under the term “fragrance.” We recommend that consumers steer clear of products with fragrance, especially pregnant women, babies and pubescent young adults.
For more information, please read our reports, “A Little Prettier” (2008) and “Not Too Pretty” (2002).
Q. I’ve been reading a lot about parabens and companies going “paraben-free.” What does that mean?
A. Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as anti-microbial preservatives in food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics products, including underarm deodorants. Parabens are absorbed through intact skin and through the gastrointestinal tract and blood. U.K. researchers found measurable concentrations of six different parabens in 20 human breast tumors. The study highlights the need for more research on the potential link between products containing parabens and increased breast cancer risk.
Many companies, including Compact signers, have begun phasing out parabens from their lines by marking their products as “paraben-free.” Parabens are commonly listed on product ingredient labels as methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben and butylparaben.
Q. What about nail polish?
A. So many people have asked us about nail polish that we created a separate pagefor information about it. According to EWG’s Skin Deep database of cosmetic product safety, nail polish is among the highest-concern product categories in terms of serious health effects. This has to do in large part to the chemicals formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate(DBP), all three of which make it into the top ingredients of concern in personal care products, and all three of which could be found in many brands of nail polish until very recently.
Many smaller nail polish manufacturers removed these chemicals from their products long ago. And while European laws forced many international companies to stop using DBP in 2005, some holdouts were still using the chemical in their U.S. lines. In 2006, Del Laboratories, Inc., which makes the Sally Hansen brand, told the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics that it would remove all DBP, toluene and formaldehyde from their U.S. products. At that time, leading salon brand (and target of Campaign actions and ads) OPI agreed to remove DBP, but refused to eliminate formaldehyde and toluene from all of their nail polishes and treatments.
In March 2007, OPI reported that it was reformulating all of its products to be toluene-free.
The U.S. National Toxicology Program says formaldehyde is “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricts toluene in drinking water because it can cause nervous system disorders and damage the liver and kidneys. DBP is prohibited for use in cosmetics in the European Union because it is a possible human reproductive or developmental toxin. The data from several peer-reviewed scientific studies indicated that DBP is a probable endocrine disruptor, which means that it disrupts the natural balance of hormones in the body.
Q. Who’s making safe nail polish?
A. Several companies who have signed the Compact make nail polishes, treatments and removers without harmful chemicals, including Anise Nail Care, Honeybee Gardens and NAIL-AID Treatments. So you don’t have to give up your mani-pedi visits, just BYOP (Bring Your Own Polish) the next time you go! And it won’t hurt to let your salon know about the health effects associated with polishes and treatments and how they can swap toxic products with safer alternatives to protect their own health, too. For more information about health risks to salon workers, read Glossed Over: Health Hazards Associated with Toxic Exposure in Nail Salons from Women’s Voices for the Earth.
Q: Where can I find information on sunscreens?
A: Environmental Working Group’s 2011 investigationof more than 600 sunscreen products found that 4 out of 5 contain chemicals that may pose health hazards or don’t adequately protect skin from the sun’s damaging rays. Some sunscreen makers are using nanotechnology in their products, and not always telling consumers about these risky nano-sized ingredients. Friends of the Earth published a report in 2007 focusing on nanotechnology and sunscreen, which is available on their website.
Q: Can I really get exposed to as much formaldehyde eating Brussels sprouts or apples as I can from a Brazilian Blowout treatment?
A: In a word, no. This is a myth perpetuated by defenders of Brazilian Blowout and other keratin hair-straightening products. Apples and some other fruits and vegetables do contain naturally occurring formaldehyde, typically around 10 mg/kg (or parts per million), or 0.001 percent. But the levels of formaldehyde found in Brazilian Blowout by Oregon OSHA in 2010 were close to 10 percent, 10,000 times higher than the levels of formaldehyde found in apples.
SOME LABELS INDICATING A PRODUCT IS PARABEN FREE
Check the products you use to see if they have earned any of these labels.
OTHER BAD STUFF IN OUR COSMETICS
For the sake of simplicity, I decided to focus on parabens in this post but there are many other problematic chemicals included in the products we use on and put into our bodies.
The ingredients below are often found in skin moisturizers and other personal care products:
Mineral Oil, Paraffin, and Petrolatum— Petroleum products that coat the skin like plastic, clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins, which in turn accumulate and can lead to dermatologic issues. Slows cellular development, which can cause you to show earlier signs of aging. Suspected cause of cancer. Disruptive of hormonal activity. By the way, when there’s an oil spill in the ocean, don’t they rush to clean it up — fast? Why put that stuff on your skin?
Parabens— Widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic industry (including moisturizers). An estimated 13,200 cosmetic and skin care products contain parabens. Studies implicate their connection with cancer. They have hormone-disrupting qualities — mimicking estrogen — and interfere with the body’s endocrine system.
Phenol carbolic acid– Found in many lotions and skin creams. Can cause circulatory collapse, paralysis, convulsions, coma and even death from respiratory failure.
Propylene glycol— Used as a moisturizer in cosmetics and as a carrier in fragrance oils. Shown to cause dermatitis, kidney or liver abnormalities, and may inhibit skin cell growth or cause skin irritation.
Acrylamide– Found in many hand and face creams. Linked to mammary tumors in lab research.
Sodium laurel or lauryl sulfate (SLS), also known assodium laureth sulfate (SLES)– Found in car washes, engine degreasers, garage floor cleaners… and in over 90% of personal care products! SLS breaks down the skin’s moisture barrier, easily penetrates the skin, and allows other chemicals to easily penetrate. Combined with other chemicals, SLS becomes a “nitrosamine”, a potent class of carcinogen. It can also cause hair loss. SLES is sometimes disguised with the labeling “comes from coconut” or “coconut-derived”.
Toluene— Poison! Danger! Harmful or fatal if swallowed! Harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Made from petroleum or coal tar, and found in most synthetic fragrances. Chronic exposure linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) contains toluene. Other names may include benzoic and benzyl.
Dioxane– Found in compounds known as PEG, Polysorbates, Laureth, ethoxylated alcohols. Common in a wide range of personal care products. The compounds are usually contaminated with high concentrations of highly volatile 1,4-dioxane, easily absorbed through the skin. Dioxane’s carcinogenicity was first reported in 1965 and later confirmed in studies including one from the National Cancer Institute in 1978. Nasal passages and liver are the most vulnerable. Dioxane is easily removed during the manufacturing process by “vacuum stripping”. Warning: It is a synthetic derivative of coconut. Watch for hidden language on labels, such as “comes from coconut”.
Like parabens, phthalates are also known to be hormone-mimicking chemicals which disrupt normal hormonal processes. And, also like parabens, they are frequently included in our cosmetic and body care products. Phthalates have been found to cause a broad range of birth defects and lifelong reproductive problems in laboratory animals exposed to them during pregnancy and after birth. The US Environmental Protection Agency lists phthalates as “Chemicals of Concern”. (Think Before You Pink)
Phthalates are esters of phthalic acid used principally as plasticizers to increase flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity in a large variety of products – including personal-care products, nail polish, fragrances, enteric coatings on pharmaceutical tablets and nutritional supplements, detergents and surfactants, packaging materials, PVC shower curtains, pharmaceuticals, food products, children’s toys, paints, printing inks, lubricants, emulsifying agents, adhesives and glues, vinyl flooring, electronics, building materials, medical devices, food additives, textiles, and inert ingredients in pesticides. (Wikipedia, 2014)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found most of the people they tested in the US had metabolites of multiple phthalates in their urine. Recent human bio-monitoring data found the “tolerable intake” of phthalates for children to be far exceeded, in some instances up to 20-fold. (Wikipedia, 2014)
Phthlates have been found to interfere with the production of male reproductive hormones in laboratory animals. These effects include lower testosterone level, decreased sperm count and lower sperm quality. Exposure to phthalates during gestation can also cause malformations of the male reproductive tract and testicular cancer. (Natural Resources Defense Council, undated)
Because phthalates are not chemically bound to products, they easily off-gas – especially with heat. Exposure to phthalates is by ingestion, inhalation, and applying products which contain them to the skin. (Natural Resources Defense Council, undated)
Phthalates are banned in cosmetics sold in the EU but not in the US. In this country, they are allowed in color cosmetics, scented lotions, body washes, hair care products, nail polishes and treatments. They may appear on the labels of these products as phthalate, DEP, DBP or simply as ‘fragrance’. (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2011)
Or they may not appear on the ingredients list at all. (Berl, 2012)
CHEMICALS ALLOWED IN THE US – BANNED ELSEWHERE
The Environmental Working Group says our personal care products expose women to an average of 168 ingredients per day while men encounter about 85 a day.
This list compares US policy versus other countries for some of the more problematic ingredients (Brown, 2014) and (Plasticisers.orgn, 2013):
* Legal in the US.
* Denmark first banned them in 2010 in products made for young children.
* The rest of the EU announced in 2012 that it was following suit.
* The US banned several types of phthlates in children’s toys in 2008 but continues allowing them in cosmetics.
* High phthalates will continue to be used in Europe. After February 2015, some others will be allowed in the EU only if they’ve been granted for a specific use while low phthalates will be phased out.
FORMALDEHYDE – used as a preservative in cosmetics
* Legal in the US.
* Canada bans its use in personal care products.
PETROLEUM DISTALLATES – used as inexpensive emolients; can cause contact dermatitis or be contaminated with carcinogenic imporities
* In the US they’re ingredients in eye shadow, lotions, creams, hairspray, foundation makeup and wart remover.
* Banned in the EU.
HYDROQUINONE – an effective skin lightener; linked to lung irritation and tumors in mice
* Legal in the US.
* Banned by Canada and some Asian and African countries.
OCTINOXATE – a popular ingredient that works as a chemical sunscreen; an endocrine disruptor that can upset thyroid hormones and interfere with brain signals
* Legal in the US.
* Perhaps banned in Japan – I couldn’t track this down.
METHYL CELLOSOLVE – a solvent used in anti-aging creams, moisturizers and serums; a neurotoxin and irritant that may cause DNA mutations. Often lumped into ‘fragrance’ when included on labels
* Reviled by the CDC but nevertheless legal in the US.
* Banned in Canada.
* Restricted in the EU.
BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE (BHA) – extends shelf life in lipsticks, moisturizers, shaving creams, fragrances and other personal care products; interferes with hormone function, is a possible human carcinogen, and adversely affects the environment by bio-accumulating in aquatic species
* California requires a warning label on products containing it; legal elsewhere in the US.
* The EU prohibits it in fragrances.
QUATERNIUM-15 – a formaldehyde donor preservative used in body washes, cosmetic powders, shampoos, conditioners and eye shadows; an eye irritant, allergen and probable carcinogen
* Legal in the US, Canada, China, Australia and Indonesia.
NANOPARTICLES – particles so small they can get into the cells themselves and disrupt them; can lodge in airways when inhaled from cosmetic powders and aerosols or absorbed through the skin when in topical preparations.
* The US doesn’t require products containing nanoparticles to be labeled.
* Canada, the UK, and the US Organic Standards Board have or are going to ban nanoparticles in certified organics.
Are you one of those people who attract every mosquito in the neighborhood while others around you don’t get a single bite?
Mosquitoes have been around for about 170 million years – considerably longer than modern man. Archeological and fossil evidence says Homo Sapiens evolved around 276,000 years ago. So it seems modern humans have been dealing with mosquito bites from the very beginning.
There are about 2,500 to 3,000 different species of mosquitoes found around the world. (Mosquito Magnet, 2014) More than 175 species have been identified in the US alone. (Heubeck, 2005-2014)
Makes you itch just to think about all those mosquitoes, doesn’t it?
The most common – and most dangerous – are the various species in the Culex, Anopheles, and Aedes genera. Culexpipiens, known as the northern house mosquito, is the principal carrier of West Nile virus. Anopheles carries the parasite that causes malaria. The parasite gets transmitted through the mosquitoes’ saliva when they bite us. Anopheles‘ bites are responsible for over one million deaths per year. Two species of Aedes are carriers of other dangerous diseases: Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, transmits dengue fever and eastern equine encephalitis while Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito, transmits dengue and yellow fever. (Mosquito World, undated)
Mosquitoes cause more human suffering worldwide than any other organism – killing over one million people every year. They also transmit serious diseases and parasites to dogs and horses.
The National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), publishes a list of some of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. (NCID, 2007) The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) also publishes information on mosquito-borne diseases affecting humans, horses and dogs. (AMCA, 2013) Below is a combination of both lists:
Rift Valley Fever
La Crosse encephalitis
St Louis encephalitis
Chikungunya – rarely fatal but causing excruciating joint pain that is debilitating and may persist for several weeks
Dog Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis)
Eastern equine encephalitis – affects both horses and humans
Western equine encephalitis
Mosquitoes’ sensory organs seek sources of carbon dioxide and lactic acid – because these substances lead them to humans and other warm blooded animals. Chemical repellents like OFF! work because the DEET in them is highly effective at masking the smell of both carbon dioxide and lactic acid, not because mosquitoes don’t like the smell of the repellents themselves. (Reinagel, 2010)
A common misconception is that mosquitoes are attracted to humans and some other warm blooded animals who have sweet or pleasant tasting blood. Mosquitoes aren’t particularly interested in our blood – although people who have Type O blood are known to get more bites than people with other blood types. What they ARE very attracted to is the scents emitted by various bacteria and other micro-organisms living on our skin. These can differ from person to person and on us at different times.
Mosquitoes can detect plumes of carbon dioxide in our exhaled breath at a distance of several hundred feet. At under 100 feet they smell the odors of the bacteria and micro-organisms living in our skin microbiota. (Mosquito World, undated)
It’s only the female mosquito that bites – and what she does isn’t actually a bite. She lands on your skin and uses heat sensors on her antennae and around her mouth to detect a capillary near the surface of the skin. When she finds one, she inserts her proboscis (a long, needle-like mouth part containing two tubes) into the vessel and draws some blood out through one tube. Through the proboscis’ second tube, she inserts a little of her saliva, which contains enzymes that keep the blood from coagulating so she can feed freely. These enzymes also act as a mild painkiller so we don’t notice that our skin has been punctured. The female mosquito needs a protein in human blood to make her eggs fertile. (Ferris, 2013)
Our body’s immune system recognizes these enzymes as foreign. Antibodies prompt our mast cells to release histamines, which arrive at the scene and start to do their work of healing the breach and neutralizing the foreign enzymes by binding to receptors, causing the blood vessels there to dilate. The increased blood flow attracts more white blood cells to help vanquish the invading antigens. The histamines cause the spot to swell and become itchy. (Mosquito World, undated)
A 100 trillion or so micro-organisms live on and inside our bodies. One percent of these, about a trillion, live in and on our skin and determine our unique body odor. Without these bacteria, human sweat would be odorless. And these microbes, our skin’s microbiome, produce a variety of chemicals – some of which smell more attractive to mosquitoes and some of which don’t interest them at all. The composition of these trillion microbes varies greatly from person to person: We share 99.9% of our DNA with other humans but share only about 10% of our microbes. (Loria, 2014)
Interesting tidbit: It’s not the smell of our blood but the unique odors given off by our skin microbiota that so-called blood hounds can pick up. We’re constantly shedding a cloud of minute skin flakes. Bloodhounds are particularly adept at following a trail of these flakes, sniffing their odors. (Black, 2012)
Dutch researchers demonstrated that it is certain types of micro-organisms living on our skin that attract mosquitoes. For the study, they asked 48 adult male volunteers to avoid consuming alcohol, garlic, onions, and spicy foods, and not to shower or wear scented cosmetics for two days prior to the sampling event. The men were also instructed not to use soap the last time they showered before the experiment. All 48 volunteers were free from chronic illnesses and not taking any medications on a regular basis. (Verhulst, 2011) (Loria, 2014)
The men were given nylon socks to wear for 24 hours to build up a collection of their unique skin microbes. For the testing, researchers rubbed glass beads against the soles of the men’s feet to collect their scent as mosquito bait.
The sweat from 9 of the 48 men in the sample proved to be especially attractive to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes largely ignored the odors of the sweat from 7 of the men. The ‘highly attractive’ group’s sweat contained a 2.62 times higher concentration of one common skin microbe (Staphylococcus spp.) and 3.11 times higher concentration of another common microbe (Pseudomonas spp.) compared to the 7 in the ‘poorly attractive’ group. There was no significant difference between the amounts of Brevibacterium spp. and Cornynebacterium spp. in the ‘highly attractive’ and ‘poorly attractive’ groups. The ‘poorly attractive’ group also had a significantly more diverse bacterial colony living on their skins. (Loria, 2014) (Verhulst, 2011)
The microbial ecology of human skin is highly complex but science is still in the early stages of studying it. At this point, little is known about its species composition and only a small fraction of the micro-organisms living on – and in – us is culturable now – many species have not even been identified yet. The same is true for the microbes living in our gut microbiomes.
Nonetheless, the findings from this study are leading to the development of new mosquito attractants and repellents.
Another study, this one conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, found that mosquitoes and biting insects are also attracted to beer drinkers. Even one beer was found to increase the number of times subjects were bitten.
The researchers hypothesized that the attraction was due to increases in the amount of ethanol in sweat or because alcohol raises body temperature, but neither was found to correlate with mosquito landings.
This study also found that exercise, metabolism, clothing color, and pregnancy affected vulnerability to mosquitoes. (Salaky, 2013)
Wearing solid, dark clothing and dark, flowery prints
Using beauty products and lotions such as hair spray, perfume, and suntan lotion
Having standing water around – such as in backyard pools and in undisturbed pails or buckets
Working up a sweat. When you exercise, you give off more lactic acid and more carbon dioxide.
Being outside early in the day or at twilight, when mosquitoes bite the most
Eating sweet, sugary foods
Eating salty foods or ones high in potassium: Salt and potassium increase the amount of lactic acid you off-gas. Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables are the foods richest in potassium. Cabbage, green peppers, cucumbers, blueberries, apples, and watermelon are relatively low in potassium. Potatoes, lima beans, acorn squash, spinach, prunes, raisins, bananas are high in potassium.
Eating limburger cheese: It’s made with the same bacteria that cause our feet to smell.
Drinking beer: Consuming even one bottle of beer makes you bait for mosquitoes. I’ve been unable to find what it is about beer that is so attractive to them but only learned that it’s not due to an increased amount of ethanol excreted in sweat or because alcohol increases body temperature. If you find out what the connection is between beer consumption and attraction to mosquitoes, please let me know.
Being pregnant: Pregnant women attract roughly twice as many mosquitoes as non-pregnant people. Pregnant women exhale about 21% more carbon dioxide and run about 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. Mosquitoes are attracted to both the carbon dioxide breathed out and the heat given off by warm blooded animals.
Using alpha hydroxy products on your skin: Many skin care lotions and creams contain lactic acid, which is highly attractive to mosquitoes.
THESE MAKE YOU LESS INTERESTING TO MOSQUITOES:
Wearing plain, light-colored clothing
Spraying your skin with a diluted mixture of essential oils that are known to repel mosquitoes – such as tea tree oil, geranium oil, oil of cedar, peppermint oil, lemon grass oil, and citronella
Dabbing small amounts of the above essential oils on your skin is also effective against mosquitoes. A good choice is TerraShield, made by doTerra – a blend of 15 essential oils, it repels mosquitoes and ticks for up to six hours. It has a pleasant citrus smell and can be dabbed directly on your skin.
Diffusing one of these essential oils or oil blends (such as TerraShield) into the air
Placing a few drops of these essential oils or oil blends on ribbons and strings and hanging them near air vents, windows or openings where bugs might come in
Applying crushed herbs directly on your skin. Crushed catnip, citronella, vanilla leaf, tea tree, lemon balm, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, sagebrush and pineapple weed are safe to use in this way.
Spraying your skin with an infusion of herbs and plants that mosquitoes don’t like – such as calendula, catnip, lavender, pennyroyal, rosemary, basil, lime basil, peppermint, horsemint, lemon balm, lemon thyme, lemon grass, chamomile and goldenseal
Planting fragrant herbs from the list above, plus aromatic plants – such as ageratum, citronella grass, citrosa, marigolds*, common lantana, fever tea, myrrh, stone root and pennyroyal – in your garden or in pots outside. They’re all natural mosquito repellents.
Using a garlic spray in your garden or a garlic-scented lotion on your skin
Eating garlic provides mild protection – both from the scent of your breath and the sulfurous compounds you’ll emit through your skin. Of course, eating garlic or smearing its scent on your skin will probably keep away more than mosquitoes!
Eating foods high in vitamin B – such as fish, brown rice, molasses, brewers yeast and wheat germ. Mosquitoes don’t like vitamin B.
Here’s a good article containing recipes for making your own natural mosquito repellent using essential oils. Non-chemical mosquito repellents contain a diluted mixture of essential oils that mosquitoes find distasteful or which confuse their ability to detect your own odors so they can’t find you and therefore won’t bite you.
* WARNING: Never keep marigolds in areas close to windows, patio tables and other outdoor areas where you spend time as the flowers’ bright colors often attract wasps. (wikiHow, undated)
I would have included Avon’s Skin So Soft in the list of mosquito repellents except that they contain some not so nice chemicals – including methylparaben and proplyparaben.
Parabens are used as preservatives to increase shelf life in many cosmetic products (lotions, underarm deodorants and antiperspirants, hair care products, moisturizers, shaving products and make up), medicines and foods. Some of the major parabens we absorb or ingest in these products are benzylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that parabens have hormone-disrupting qualities that mimick estrogen interfering with the body’s endocrine system. The EPA has linked methylparabens in particular to metabolic, developmental, hormonal and neurological disorders, as well as to various cancers.
Companies like Burt’s Bees, Botanical Skin Works and Barefoot Botanicals do not use parabens in their products. For more information on products containing parabens visit www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org.
For more information on the parabens-breast cancer link and some paraben-free alternatives, see here (Johnson, 2011) and here (Mercola, 2012).
AO+ REFRESHING COSMETIC MIST – TO REPLENISH THE MICROBIOME OF MICROSCOPIC ORGANISMS LIVING ON OUR SKIN
In doing the research for the post just before this one, Living Bacterial Skin Tonic – Instead of Soap?!, I came across this about a living bacteria skin tonic being developed by a Massachusetts start up called AOBiome – I’ve highlighted the last two sentences:
The company’s scientists think that this product will be good for us because it could refill our bodies with microflora that do us good. In this way, it could actually be better for us than the antibacterial hygiene products that we are accustomed to using. Although these kill off bacteria, they can harm us due to the chemicals they contain (such as triclosan) which have been linked to various health problems.
If you’re still not convinced that you would want bacteria on your skin, consider this: bacteria can assist in treating various skin conditions, such as eczema and acne. It helps to heal wounds that are resistant to antibiotics. It can also change body odour so that it keeps mosquitos at bay.This is especially good if one considers illnesses like malaria that can run rampant and affect many people. (Simolo, 2014)
Our usual approach to the bacteria and other micro-organisms living on our skins – and everywhere else we can get to them – is to KILL THEM DEAD. We generally regard bacteria and their relatives as dangerous and just plain nasty. So this is an entirely new approach – a U turn in how to think about the bacteria living in and on our skin: This new spray contains billions of cultivatedNitrosomonas eutropha, an ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB)
It’s to be used in lieu of – or as an adjunct to – taking showers. Bathing with most soaps and shampoos KILLS ALL THE HEALTHY ELEMENTS OF OUR SKIN MICROBIOME. This new living bacterial skin tonic REPLENISHES the biome of microscopic organisms living on our skin.
If you recall the Dutch experiment described above, in the OUR SKIN MICROBIOME section, one of the findings was that the group of men who were the least attractive to mosquitoes had a significantly more diverse bacterial colony living on their skins.
So it makes sense to me that we would want to reverse our ill-considered search and destroy approach to bacteria and begin valuing and supporting our skin microbiomes, the trillion bacteria and other micro-organisms that dwell in and on our skin – for many reasons, not making ourselves so attractive to disease and parasite spreading mosquitoes being only one.