Posts tagged ‘human health’

Dirty Dozen’ cosmetic chemicals to avoid

From shampoos, to soaps, to lotions, to makeup — it’s not uncommon for a single person to use 10 or more personal care products each day. But some of the ingredients in beauty products aren’t that pretty. U.S. researchers found that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors, plasticizers, degreasers, and surfactants.

Here is a list of 12 chemicals you might want to avoid. Check the ingredient lists on the personal care products you purchase. To find out why the use of these chemicals in cosmetics is a concern, and how to recognize them on product labels, click on the name of the chemical. You can also download our handy shopper’s guide and keep it in your wallet!

1. BHA or BHT

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are used mainly in moisturizers and makeup as antioxidants and preservatives. They are also a hidden ingredient in some fragrances. BHA is toxic to the immune system and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies it as a possible human carcinogen. Studies suggest that BHT may be toxic to the skin, lungs, liver, and immune system. Both chemicals can cause allergic reactions, are suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption), and may promote tumour growth. They also have the potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic species.

2. Coal Tar Dyes

  • Look for p-phenylenediamine or colours identified as “C.I.” followed by a 5-digit number

Phenylenediamine, used in hair dyes, has been found to be carcinogenic in laboratory tests conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and National Toxicology Program. Other coal tar-derived colours are used extensively in cosmetics, identified by a five-digit Colour Index (C.I.) number. The U.S. colour name may also be listed (“FD&C” or “D&C” followed by a colour name and number). Coal tar itself is recognized as a human carcinogen and the main concern with coal tar colours are their potential as carcinogens. As well, colours may be contaminated with low levels of heavy metals and some contain aluminum (a neurotoxin). This is of particular concern when used in cosmetics that may be ingested, like lipstick.

3. DEA

  • Look also for related chemicals MEA and TEA

DEA (diethanolamine) and DEA compounds are used to make cosmetics creamy or sudsy. They irritate the skin and eyes and may be toxic to the immune and nervous systems. DEA compounds can also react with other ingredients in cosmetics to form carcinogenic nitrosamines. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency classifies cocamide DEA as hazardous to the environment because of its acute toxicity to aquatic organisms and potential for bioaccumulation.

4. Dibutyl Phthalate

Dibutyl phthalate (prounced thal-ate) is used mainly in nail products as a solvent for dyes and as a plasticizer that prevents nail polishes from becoming brittle. Phthalates are also unlisted fragrance ingredients in many other cosmetics. Dibutyl phthalate is absorbed through the skin. It can enhance the capacity of other chemicals to cause genetic mutations, although it is not a mutagen itself. In laboratory experiments, it has been shown to interfere with hormone function (endocrine disruption) causing reproductive and developmental problems. Dibutyl phthalate is banned in cosmetics in the European Union, but not in Canada.

5. Formaldehyde-releasing Preservatives

  • Look for DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quarternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

Formaldehyde-releasing agents DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quarternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate are used as preservatives in cosmetics. Formaldehyde is a recognized human carcinogen. DMDM hydantoin and quarternium-15 can irritate skin and eyes and trigger allergies at low doses. They are also toxic to aquatic organisms.

6. Fragrance or Parfum

The term “fragrance” or “parfum” on a cosmetic ingredients list usually represents a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. Fragrance recipes are considered a trade secret, so companies are not required to disclose fragrance chemicals in the list of ingredients. Of the thousands of chemicals used in fragrances, most have not been tested for toxicity, alone or in combination. Many of these hidden ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergic attacks, migraines, and chemical-induced nerve irritation in sensitive individuals. In laboratory experiments, individual fragrance ingredients have been associated with cancer and neurotoxicity. For example, one chemical of concern is dimethyl phthalate (prounced thal-ate), or DEP. Widely used in cosmetics to make fragrances linger, DEP is suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption), causing reproductive and developmental problems. Health Canada recently announced regulations banning six phthalates in children’s toys, but DEP is still widely used in cosmetics.

7. Parabens

  • Look for ingredients ending in “paraben” (e.g., methylparaben)

Parabens are widely used in cosmetics as a preservative. They easily penetrate the skin and are suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption). There is some evidence that parabens mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. Some studies suggest a possible association between parabens and breast cancer.

8. PEG compounds (e.g., PEG-60)

  • Look also for related chemical propylene glycol and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., polyethylene glycol).

PEG (polyethylene glycol) compounds are widely used in cream bases in cosmetics. PEG (and its chemical cousin, propylene glycol) opens the skin’s pores, allowing harmful ingredients to penetrate more deeply. PEG and other “ethoxylated” ingredients (which usually have chemical names including the letters “eth”) may be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Both contaminants may cause cancer. Also, ethylene oxide may harm the nervous system and interfere with human development, and 1,4-dioxane is persistent. In other words, it doesn’t easily degrade and can remain in the environment long after it is rinsed down the shower drain.

9. Petrolatum

Petrolatum (mineral oil jelly) is used as a barrier to lock moisture in the skin in a variety of moisturizers. It is also used in hair care products to make your hair shine. A petrochemical, it can be contaminated with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The European Union considers petrolatum a carcinogen and restricts its use in cosmetics.

10. Siloxanes

  • Look for cyclomethicone and ingredients ending in “siloxane” (e.g., cyclotetrasiloxane)

Cyclomethicone and siloxanes are used in cosmetics to soften, smooth, and moisten. These compounds can, however, irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs. They are also suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption) and of liver toxicity. These chemicals are persistent. In other words, they don’t easily degrade and can remain in the environment long after they are rinsed down the shower drain. Environment Canada considers cyclotetrasiloxane and cyclopentasiloxane to be toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms.

11. Sodium Laureth Sulfate

  • Look also for related chemical sodium lauryl sulfate and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., sodium laureth sulfate).

Sodium laureth sulfate is used in cosmetics as a cleansing agent and also to make products bubble and foam. This and other “ethoxylated” ingredients (which usually have chemical names including the letters “eth”) may be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Both contaminants may cause cancer. Also, ethylene oxide may harm the nervous system and interfere with human development, and 1,4-dioxane is persistent. In other words, it doesn’t easily degrade and can remain in the environment long after it is rinsed down the shower drain.

12. Triclosan

Triclosan is used mainly in antiperspirants/deodorants, cleansers, and hand sanitizers as a preservative and an anti-bacterial agent. It can pass through skin and is suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption). Environment Canada categorized triclosan as potentially toxic to aquatic organisms, bioaccumulative, and persistent. In other words, it doesn’t easily degrade and can build up in the environment after it has been rinsed down the shower drain. The extensive use of this chemical in consumer products may contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Canadian Medical Association has called for a ban on antibacterial consumer products, such as those containing triclosan.


May 6, 2010 at 11:42 AM Leave a comment

New EPA Regulations Target Mercury and Other Toxic Emissions from Boilers and Solid Waste Incinerators

From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published May 4, 2010

The US environmental Protection Agengy (EPA) is currently issuing a new proposal to cut mercury emissions by more than half as well as other pollutants from boilers, process heaters, and solid waste incinerators. Toxic air emissions have been shown to cause cancer and other serious health problems for affected people. The main purpose of this proposal would be to reduce health and environmental risk in a cost-effective way. The EPA estimates that the new rules would yield more than $5 in health savings for every dollar spent in implementing the rules.

“Strong cuts to mercury and other harmful emissions will have real benefits for our health and our environment, spur clean technology innovations and save American communities billions of dollars in avoided health costs,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “This is a cost-effective, commonsense way to protect our health and the health of our children, and get America moving into the clean economy of the future.”

Mercury has been shown to be extremely harmful to human health. It can damage the brains and nervous systems for children developing both before and after birth. Mercury in the air eventually is absorbed into the surface water where it can build up in freshwater and ocean marine life. This is highly toxic for people who eat the contaminated fish. The mercury contamination can lead to fish consumption advisories to protect public health.

Efforts at reducing mercury emissions are nothing new. Pollution controls on Mercury were started in the early 1990’s and have gotten progressively tighter. The most recent proposal is another step in tightening the regulations.

The EPA estimates that mercury emissions will be reduced from about 200,000 industrial boilers, process heaters, and incinerators. Health benefits are estimated to be between $18 and $44 billion per year. The new rules would prevent from 2,000 to 5,200 premature deaths and roughly 36,000 asthma attacks per year. Meanwhile, installing and operating the new pollution control devices would require only $3.6 billion under the new rules.

This is what is known as internalizing the cost for operators of boilers, heaters, and incinerators. Air emissions are an externality. Once the air emissions are released, they are no longer the responsibility of the plant operator. However, members of the public have to pay for the emissions through higher health care costs. Therefore, the true cost of the operators’ actions is externalized to the public. The new rules help to internalize this externality.

Boilers and incinerators at large industrial facilities would have to meet the new emissions limits and also be required to conduct energy audits to find ways to reduce fuel use. Smaller facilities such as schools, commercial buildings, or hotels would not be included in these rules, but would be required to perform tune-ups every two years.

After the rules are published in the Federal Register, the EPA will take comments for 45 days and hearings will be held to assess public opinion. To find more information on the new EPA proposals and details on the public hearings, go to:

May 4, 2010 at 9:38 AM Leave a comment

EPA: Greenhouse gases endanger human health

As U.N. climate talks begin in Copenhagen, the Obama administration takes steps to regulate U.S. emissions with or without congressional approval.

The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded greenhouse gases are endangering people’s health and must be regulated, signaling that the Obama administration is prepared to contain global warming without congressional action if necessary.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson scheduled a news conference for later Monday to announce the so-called endangerment finding, officials told The Associated Press, speaking privately because the announcement had not been made.
The finding is timed to boost the administration’s arguments at an international climate conference — beginning this week — that the United States is aggressively taking actions to combat global warming, even though Congress has yet to act on climate legislation.
Under a Supreme Court ruling, the so-called endangerment finding is needed before the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases released from power plants, factories and automobiles under the federal Clean Air Act.
The EPA signaled last April that it was inclined to view heat-trapping pollution as a threat to public health and welfare and began to take public comments under a formal rulemaking. The action marked a reversal from the Bush administration, which had declined to aggressively pursue the issue.
Business groups have strongly argued against tackling global warming through the regulatory process of the Clean Air Act. Any such regulations are likely to spawn lawsuits and lengthy legal fights.
For full story click HERE

December 8, 2009 at 10:22 AM Leave a comment

University of San Francisco: unplugged

USFUNPLUGGED is brought to you by the Environmental Safety Community Outreach Liaison’s of USF. Here to educate, assist and encourage, we want you to get involved with the GREEN movement taking place on campus!

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