Carcinogens in our Personal Hygiene Products?

kids in bucketsMost of us pride ourselves on our personal cleanliness and appearance, which is why bathing, brushing one’s teeth and shampooing our hair regularly is a must.

When it comes to beauty products though, the effects of the ingredients they contain can be more than just skin deep. The cosmetics industry uses thousands of synthetic chemicals in its products, in everything from lipstick and lotion to shampoo and shaving cream.

While none of us would knowingly rub synthetic chemicals on our skin, that’s often what happens every day when we complete our “toilette”

U.S. researchers report that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors.


Unfortunately it has come to light that Triclosan, an antimicrobial commonly found in soaps, shampoos, toothpaste and many other household items, has been linked to liver fibrosis and cancer in a study published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Studies in the U.S. have found traces in 97% of breast milk samples from lactating women and in the urine of nearly 75% of people tested. Triclosan is one of the seven most frequently detected compounds in streams across the United States.

Children with prolonged exposure over months or years to Triclosan have a much greater chance of developing allergies, including peanut allergies and hay fever, according to studies in the Environmental Health Perspectives in 2011 and in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology in 2012.

Author of the  study, Dr Robert Tukey, of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said “Triclosan’s increasing detection in environmental samples and its increasingly broad use in consumer products may overcome its moderate benefit. [Instead, it may] present a very real risk of liver toxicity for people, as it does in mice, particularly when combined with other compounds with similar action.


Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) &  Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES)

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) is a chemical found in many shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, cosmetics, soaps and various cleaning products, and there is an ongoing debate as to whether these chemicals are carcinogenic or not.

At this point in time there is no scientific evidence that links the two according to the American Cancer Council and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP).

Other research however has revealed that this harsh chemical detergent is added to shampoo because it is effective in removing dirt and is inexpensive, and that SLS is actually so strong that it is also used as an engine degreaser, a garage/concrete floor cleaner, carwash Soap, and it is also used in many laboratories to break up DNA.

personal care productsShampoo: Surrounds the hair follicles which keeps it from growing and causes hair to fall out;

Toothpaste: Weakens the enamel on your teeth, causing cavities:

General: SLS is very abrasive and may burn the skin, and mouth, cause Canker sores, or scalp sores. It stops children’s eyes from developing properly and causes cataracts in older people. It has also been linked to depression, eye damage, laboured breathing, diarrhoea, severe skin irritation, corrosion and even death.

According to the American College of Toxicology, both SLS and SLES can cause malformation in children’s eyes. Other research has indicated SLS is damaging to the immune system, especially within the skin. Skin layers exposed to the substance separate and inflame due to its protein denaturing properties. SLS stays in the body for up to five days. Other studies have indicated that SLS easily penetrates through the skin and enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain. This poses serious questions regarding its potential health threat through its use in shampoos, cleansers and toothpaste.

Research has shown that when SLS is combined with other chemicals, it can be transformed into nitrosamines, a potent class of carcinogens, which cause the body to absorb nitrates at higher levels than eating nitrate-contaminated food.

downloadSodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) is also a concern as in some circumstances it can become contaminated with Dioxane, a suspected carcinogen which lasts much longer in our bodies, primarily because the liver cannot metabolise it effectively. While it’s considered less of a skin irritant when compared to SLS, there are underlying concerns over its continued use in beauty products.

Various studies also point to residual levels of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in the brain, lungs, liver, and heart, which could be linked to a hormone imbalance. Symptoms such as PMS and PMT and menopausal symptoms are tied to hormone levels. A lower rate of male fertility has also been reported in some cases, particularly in western countries however this is still unsubstantiated.

Because SLS mimics Oestrogen, it’s possible that it may play a role in these types of health issues. The concern here is while it’s generally considered safe to use at 1%, over time the amount absorbed by the bloodstream can mean residual levels in your body are much higher.



Other Toxic Chemicals

Other Toxic Chemicals that can be found in personal hygiene products include:

Acrylamide: Found in many face creams. You’ll find this in mammary tumors. Acrylamide is an industrial chemical known to increase infertility and neurological problems.

BHA and BHT: Used mainly in moisturisers and makeup as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disruptors and may cause cancer (BHA). Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

Butadiene: Shaving creams, spray sunscreens and foundations, and anti-fungal treatments that contain the propellant isobutene may be contaminated with the carcinogen 1,3-butadiene. Exposure occurs mainly through inhalation. This chemical has been found to increase mammary tumours in rodents.

DEA-Related Ingredients: Used in creamy and foaming products, such as moisturisers and shampoos. Can react to form nitrosamines, which may cause cancer. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Look also for related chemicals MEA and TEA

Coal Tar Dyes: p-phenylenediamine and colours listed as “CI” followed by a five digit number. Coal tar is a mixture of many chemicals, derived from petroleum, Coal tar is recognized as a human carcinogen and the main concern with individual coal-tar colours (whether produced from coal-tar or synthetically) is their potential to cause cancer.

Diethanolamine (DEA): Used in personal care, laundry detergent and cleaning products to give that foam lather. DEA by itself is not harmful, however DEA reacts in the cosmetic formula to form an extremely potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA). NDEA is absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, oesophagus, liver and bladder cancers.

Dibutyl Phthalate: Used as a plasticiser in some nail care products. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

Dioxane: 1,4-dioxane is not listed on ingredient labels. It is a petroleum-derived contaminant formed in the manufacture of shampoos, body wash, children’s bath products and other sudsing cosmetics. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has ranked it as a possible carcinogen, and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) has identified it as a reasonably anticipated carcinogen.

Ethylene Oxide: Ethylene oxide is used to sterilize surgical instruments. It can also be a contaminant of personal care products such as shampoos and body washes, because it is used to buffer the harshness of some sudsing agents, and trace amounts can be left behind. It is classified as a known human carcinogen and is one of 51 chemicals that the National Toxicology Program (NTP) identifies as mammary carcinogens in animals.


Click to enlarge

Formaldehyde: Found in nail polish, body lotion, cleansers, shampoo & conditioners, body wash, styling gel, sunscreen and makeup! Formaldehyde a known human carcinogen, it’s toxic to the immune system and respiratory track.

Heavy Metals (lead, aluminum, arsenic, nickel, beryllium, mercury, cadmium & nickel): The main ingredient in most conventional deodorants is aluminum. One or more of these metals is probably in your makeup! Lead is an ingredient so toxic it isn’t allowed in paint or gasoline, but it’s in most lipsticks! Also watch out for arsenic in your eyeliner and cadmium and mercury in your mascara!

Isopropyl Alcohol: Isopropyl Alcohol is used in hair color rinses, body rubs, hand lotion and aftershave lotions as well as in your car’s antifreeze and shellac! Scientists believe that it has the ability to destroy intestinal flora, leaving the body’s major organs open to parasites, and thus to cancers. Beyond attacking the intestinal flora, isopropyl alcohol can cause headaches, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting, and coma.

Lead: Lead may be a contaminant in over 650 cosmetic products, including sunscreens, foundation, nail colors, lipsticks and whitening toothpaste. Lead is a proven neurotoxin, linked to learning, language and behavioral problems. It has also been linked to miscarriage, reduced fertility in men and women, and delays in puberty onset in girls.

Natural and Inorganic Pigments: Natural and inorganic pigments used in cosmetics are also assigned Colour Index numbers (in the 75000 and 77000 series, respectively). Look for p-phenylenediamine hair dyes and in other products colours listed as “CI” followed by five digits.1 The U.S. colour name may also be listed (e.g. “FD&C Blue No. 1” or “Blue 1”). Potential to cause cancer and may be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain

Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives: Look for DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15. Used in a variety of cosmetics. Slowly release small amounts of formaldehyde, which causes cancer.

Parabens: Used in a variety of cosmetics as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disrupters and may interfere with male reproductive functions.

Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance): Any mixture of fragrance ingredients used in a variety of cosmetics — even in some products marketed as “unscented.” Some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. Some harmful to fish and other wildlife

Phenol (Carbolic Acid): Found in skin lotion. Phenol was first extracted from coal tar, but today is produced from petroleum. It is corrosive to the eyes, the skin, and the respiratory tract causing lung edema. It’s harmful to the central nervous systems and heart and cause dysrhythmia, seizures, and coma. The kidneys may be affected as well.

PEG Compounds: Used in many cosmetic cream bases. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Also for related chemical propylene glycol and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., polyethylene glycol).

Petrolatum: Used in some hair products for shine and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturisers. A petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer.

Propolene Glycol (Antifreeze): Linked to kidney and liver disease. Found in cosmetics, shampoo & conditioners, deodorant, and of all places… ice cream!

Phthalates: Work as softeners in personal care products such as cosmetics and shampoo, as well as flexible plastics like children’s toys (Source). Phthalates are known as endocrine disruptors because they mimic the body’s hormones and have, in laboratory animal tests, been shown to cause reproductive and neurological damage (source). Phthalates are also in products with “Fragrance” as one of the ingredients.

Siloxanes: Look for ingredients ending in “-siloxane” or “-methicone.” Used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant (cyclotetrasiloxane). Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

Sunscreen: Many sunscreens contain chemicals that exert significant estrogenic activity, as measured by the increase in proliferation rates of human breast cancer cells in vitro. Studies show these chemicals are accumulating in wildlife and humans.


So, with all the conflicting reports, who does one believe?

Frankly, I am of the belief that the best way forward is to use products that are as natural as possible or go back to nature completely and use natural methods such as washing your hair with baking soda and rinsing with apple-cider vinegar or Keeping Your Gums and Teeth Healthy the ‘Natural’ Way.

Some research online should turn up a natural method for doing just about anything you need to do in order to maintain your personal hygiene and remain healthy.



About LFCT

This is a blog about CHILDHOOD CANCER and CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS Little Fighters Cancer Trust is a non-profit organisation that offers support and aid to Children with Cancer and their families. When a child is diagnosed with cancer it affects the whole family. One of the parents, usually the mother, must give up their job to care for the child and this creates financial problems for the family. In South Africa especially the majority of these families are not well-to-do; many of them are rural. A diagnosis of cancer can wipe out any family’s finances, let alone a poor family. The costs of special medications, special diets, hospital stays, transport to and from the hospital or clinic and accommodation and food costs for the mother who spends most of the time at her child’s bedside are astronomical. These are the people and problems that fall through the cracks, and these are the people that Little Fighters Cancer Trust has pledged to help in any way possible. LFCT takes a holistic approach to assisting the Children with Cancer and their Families, with the main aim to be the preservation of individual dignity and pride. Little Fighters Cancer Trust also focuses on promotion and advocacy of National Childhood Cancer Awareness in an effort to increase awareness of Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer. This would result in earlier diagnosis, giving the Child with Cancer more of a chance at Treatment and Survival. See "About" for more Background info

Posted on 10 February, 2016, in Blog, Research and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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