Answer: To take better care of our skin and bodies and the environment. To be safer!
Detergents and cosmetics products can have over 30 synthetic chemicals in them. Some of which may not be safe. Some of which are fast to be absorbed through our skin and most of which are likely to be allergenic but all of which we come into daily contact with because they are in some many of the products we use.
Our skin is the largest organ we have and whilst we know much about the dangers to our heart & lungs and are regularly advised how to keep them healthy, apart from the dangers of exposure to the sun, we don’t hear that much about what other potential dangers there are to our skin.
Mainstream cosmetic and detergent manufacturing companies believe that many of the synthetic chemicals they use are safe based on their long-term use and safety records. However, many public interest organisations believe that further research is necessary.
Take parabens as an example. These are used for their bactericidal and fungicidal functions. They are found in shampoos, moisturisers, shower gels, toothpaste, antibacterial hand washes etc. The most common ones are: methyparaben E218, ethyparaben E214, propylparaben E216 & butylparaben. Have a look and see if they are in any of the products in your home.
Low concentrated levels of parabens have shown up in breast cancer tumours. They can mimic estrogen which is known to play a role in breast cancer. UK molecular biologist, Philippa Darbre reported ester bearing form of parabens found in tumours indicated they came from skin applications such as underarm deodorant, creams or body sprays. She said this could explain why 60% of all breast tumours are found in just one fifth of the breast, nearest the armpit.
There are no conclusive studies but the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Protection (SCCP) said in 2006 that available data on parabens did not enable a decisive response to the question of whether propyl, butyl & isobutyl parabens can be safely used in cosmetic products at individual concentrations of up to 0.4% which is the allowed limit in the EU.
Parabens are just one example. There are many other synthetic chemicals such as: propylene glycol, a petroleum derivative used for antimicrobial properties; methylisothiazolimone (MIT), used as a preservative and biocide controlling microbial growth. Both chemicals are described as having allergenic and irritant tendencies.
Also, we should be aware of surfactants which are widely used to achieve a better wash, a better clean, a softer finish. However, the way surfactants work means they affect the surface tension of what it comes into contact with. Some surfactants are made to keep soiled water from re-entering a surface so forms a barrier. Fabric conditioners do this and bubble baths. But the chemicals are then left on our clothing or skin, which can result in being absorbed into our bodies. Having a bath, hand or foot soak with the right products can be a great benefit to our bodies as the chemicals we want in our body for detox purposes or to redress mineral in-balance etc can readily enter through our skin. It does mean though that they are not being filter by the liver which medicines or orally digested products would be. The annual global production of surfactants was 13 million metric tonnes in 2008 which was expected to grow by 2.8% to 2012 and 3.5-4% thereafter.
So why do we use these products with so many synthetic chemicals in? It’s easy. Yes, just that. It is too easy to select our cosmetics and detergents on colour, price and packaging. There are labelling directives companies need to use but with such long chemical words, do we really know what they are? Natural chemicals also have long words although any company selling products with natural or organic ingredients usually highlight this.
Have a closer look when purchasing you next lot of products and take time to read the many warnings that appear on the labels. Limescale remover liquids and powders are an example. They also give a toxic warning. We are likely to be putting ourselves at increased risk as I doubt we follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, using bleach based products to clean our toilets etc requires a well ventilated room and protective clothing and eye protection. This guidance is more likely to be followed by good commercial cleaners but not householders even though we are warned.
There are more natural ways to keep ourselves and homes clean and so eliminating contact with these types of chemicals. However, it would be a lot easier if we had more readily available and cost effective green, ecological or organic products to select from.
I am trying to do something about that. Having discovered what was in the products my children used daily and the potential harm the chemicals in them presented, I started using natural ingredients for cleaning and eco personal care products. Some were expensive for my tight household budget, so I researched making my own. That was 18 months ago and I have now started producing a back2basics range of detergents based on methods of cleaning that are better for our health and for the environment. I have devised a way of cleaning based on using natural revived products that we used to have in our homes and that are still brilliantly effective today. They don’t need preservatives, as they wouldn’t be hanging around our cupboards for too long as they have multi uses, are in smaller containers with the option for refills. I have kept them simple in their production using only basic biodegradable ingredients and packaged them in a way that enhances the ‘life’ of each product while still being ecological. You could describe them as old-fashioned. Most people say something like…’ I remember my Gran using that’. I like to think of them as revived or new-fashioned using what has worked well in the past but with a present and future day concept to them.
We bring our children up to cross the road safely, ride their bikes safely, exercise and eat a healthy diet though we are putting potential harmful substances on their skin and into their bodies, daily, without a thought. Please just take a moment to consider using natural and basic ingredients that perform the role they need to but without the extras. The Easy Jet of the detergent world! No frills or additional expenses but gets the job done!
For more information visit http://www.wendygoesgreen.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on twitter:wendygoesgreen. Written by Wendy Thomson, MD of wendygoesgreen a green cleaning and wellbeing company based in Gloucestershire, UK.