Tag Archives | chemical

Triclosan: What Is It?

Triclosan:  What Is It?  {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

Have you heard the word triclosan (tric-lo-san)?  Do you know what it is?

What Is It?

Triclosan (or sometimes triclocarban) is an ingredient added to many items with the intention of preventing or reducing bacteria.  The most common item you might find triclosan is anti-bacterial soaps.  But it appears in many other products including toothpaste, soaps, body washes, clothing and some cosmetics.

Is It Safe?

Honestly, the jury is out on this as it is with so many additives in our food and personal care products.  The testing just hasn’t been done.  For years, environmental groups have urged manufacturers and FDA to remove triclosan from products.  Their reasons, several studies have indicated that the repeated use of triclosan has been linked to hormone disruption and contributed to anti-biotic resistant bacteria.  

In 2010, FDA determined that triclosan in hand soap was no more effective against bacteria than washing with plain soap and water.  FDA also recently announced that they will be taking a closer look at anti-bacterial soaps.  According to the FDA website: “There are indications that certain ingredients in these soaps may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and may have unanticipated hormonal effects that are of concern to FDA”.

 But until manufacturers remove triclosan from products, what can you do……

How to Avoid Triclosan

READ THE  LABELS of every kind of personal care product you have or want to purchase – toothpaste, soaps, body washes, deodorant.  Look especially closely at anything labeled  “anti-bacterial”.  Even some clothing and kitchen tools now contain triclosan.  If it is an ingredient, find an alternative without triclosan.

From FDA:  “Most antibacterial products have the word “antibacterial” on the label. Also, a Drug Facts label on a soap or body wash is a sure sign a product contains antibacterial ingredients. Cosmetics must list the ingredients, but are not required to carry a Drug Facts Label.”

The Environmental Working Group has a great database called skin deep.  It’s  is a good way to look for safer alternatives.  They even have an app!  

 

Are you concerned about triclosan?  Have you found safer alternatives?

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Walmart and P&G are Phasing Out Harmful Chemicals

 Walmart and P&G phasing Out Harmful Chemicals

 

This week, Walmart announced they will be attempting to minimize the harmful chemicals in their household cleaning, personal care and beauty and cosmetic products.  Beginning in January 2015, Walmart will require their suppliers to disclose, online, ingredients contained in products sold on Walmart shelves.  This is a HUGE step as none of these products currently are required to disclose their ingredient lists anywhere.  Walmart will also work to reduce the use of 10 “high priority” chemical ingredients.  The list of 10 has not yet been disclosed but Walmart assures Safer Chemicals Healthy Families that the 10 are on its list of the “Hazardous 100+”.  Another distinction is that Walmart will be working with suppliers to ensure the replacement chemicals aren’t just as bad.

Proctor &Gamble announced earlier in the week that it will eliminate triclosan and dibutyl phthalate from all of its products by 2014.  Triclosan and phthalates are believed to be hormone disruptors.

I am VERY happy with these announcements!  It shows that companies are listening to consumer concerns.  I constantly feel like I have to be a scientist to go shopping – is this made of PVC, what are the ingredients, is that one a safe one?  It has this certification, but does it really mean anything?  It is enough to make your head spin.  Fix it from the top!  If manufacturers and retailers can rid our shelves of dangerous chemicals, then I don’t need to worry, as much.  There are still plenty of other decisions I will need to make.  But trying to pick the hand soap that DOESN’T have an ingredient possibly adding to antibiotic resistant bacteria – yeah I don’t think anyone wants that.

This also covers the other shoppers who may not even be aware that their cleaning product or tube of lipstick could be harming them.  I was one of these consumers once, and probably still am in other areas.  I remember years ago, my children were small and I was just beginning to go green.  I started seeing “no growth hormone” stickers on milk.  I remember, clear as day, standing in the aisle of the grocery store with my 4 year old and 2 year old twins, just trying to get some milk and thinking “Did I need to worry about that?”  I had no clue what it meant at the time.

Say what you want about Walmart, but you can’t deny their reach.  According to Forbes magazine, they are the largest retailer in sales and the #24 “World’s Most Powerful Brand”.  If they rid their shelves of 10 dangerous chemicals, that is a significant drop overall. 

One thing that bothers me though is that I had a difficult time finding these announcements in Walmart or P&G press releases. Nor could I find it easily in main stream media.  If I missed it, please tell me.  I wish the companies and media saw this as more news worthy.

Let’s just hope they follow through and continue to do more!

What do you think about these announcements?

 

Photo used under Creative Commons by Walmart/Flickr

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Personal Care Products Primer

 
 
safer personal care products
As winter approaches, out comes the lip balm!  Not just for me, but the whole family.  We have it everywhere – bathrooms, backpacks, purses, cars.
 
Lip balms are just one of several personal care products each of us uses daily.  These include shampoo, conditioner, soap, makeup, deodorant, moisturizers and the like.  They get us clean, make us smell and feel good.  

Now for the bad news

  • There are no real regulations for personal care products.  Companies are NOT required to test for safety before they hit the shelves. 
  • All ingredients do NOT need to be disclosed.  This is especially the case with fragrance and flavorings.  You just don’t know what is in there.
  • Three common ingredients used in many personal care products have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and hormone disruption to name just a few.  These are parabens, phthalates, and triclosan.
  • Our skin is the largest organ on our bodies and is really good at absorbing stuff.  How many medicines now come in “patch” form?
 
Especially disturbing with lip balms as they are applied to our lips!  How much do you think you eat in a day? The more I learn about conventional products, the more I don’t like.  Bottom line for me – they have not been proven safe so I would rather be safe than sorry.  There are so many great alternatives that are easily obtained and very affordable.
 

How To Find Safe Alternatives    

So, how do I find these alternatives?  I go to Skin Deep and GoodGuide.  The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database rates more than 69,000 personal care products for safety.  GoodGuide rates over 175,000 items including toys, food, electronics and personal care products.
There are sooo many products out there and it can be very frustrating and confusing to weed through everything, finally pick a product only to get to the store and not find it on the shelves.  Take it one product at a time.  I also recommend downloading good guide’s app to your smart phone.  You can scan the bar code of the product while you are at the store and instantly obtain the safety data.  Not all products are in the app, but it helps.
 
If you are at the store trying to decide, keep these in mind when looking for any personal care product: 
1) opt for no flavoring/scent
2) Look for a short ingredient list you can read.
3) Avoid -parabens, phthalates, and triclosan for starters
 
Another thing you can do – use fewer products and/or use them less frequently.  Many hairdressers and dermatologists recommend washing your hair every other day (or less) so as not to strip your hair.
 

Homemade Options

There are also loads of homemade recipes online and here.  Try them out.  I am all about simple and easy DIY so no need for super special ingredients or lengthy methods in these.
 

Take Action

Do you think it’s unfair that you have to research personal care products yourself?  Feeling at times like you need a chemical engineering degree to make the decision on which soap to purchase?!  I do!  If products are being sold on store shelves, there should be some level of testing done to ensure they are safe.
 
Several groups are trying to shift the burden of proof to the companies that make the products.  To make the manufacturers prove their products are safe BEFORE they can appear on store shelves, instead of consumers having to prove they are harmful to get them OFF the shelves.
 
  1. Get educated at The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database.
  2. Tell your Senators you want them to support the Safe Chemicals Act
  3. Switch or eliminate ONE product you currently use.
 

Have you switched to safer personal care products?  Any you haven’t been able to switch?

This post has been shared at Tiny Tip TuesdaySmall Footprint Friday

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Take the Bite Out of Summer


A Greene Westford column reposted.  This was originally posted in July 2011.



DEET vs. Disease: You may not need to choose.

Mosquitoes, ticks and other biting insects are not a favorite come summer.  With the threat of West Nile virus and Lyme disease, not to mention the annoying itching, bug sprays are a must.  But the danger of some of the chemicals used in bug repellents may not be too comforting either. 
DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the most common ingredient in conventional insect repellents. According to research by Duke University, DEET can affect the nervous system and is linked with brain cell damage, behavioral changes and harmful interactions with some medications in laboratory animals.   
West Nile Virus and Lyme disease can be very harmful.  Although, according to the CDC, no cases of West Nile have been reported in New England this year, there have been cases in the past. Lyme is all too common unfortunately and can be dangerous if left untreated.
Adverse effects from DEET are rare while cases of West Nile and Lyme are much more common. That may lead you to think that the risk of DEET is worth the prevention of West Nile and Lyme. However,we still don’t know enough about the long term effects of DEET. Information is the key.  If you know your options and the risks associated with each, you can decide what is best for you and your family. At the very least you are aware and can reduce, if not eliminate, any dangers you fear.
When using a DEET product:
  • Mosquitoes do not like the smell of DEET.  Put it on clothes, not skin, to limit your exposure but still prevent mosquitoes.
  • Look for a pump instead of a spray to lessen the chance you will inhale the product.
  • Higher concentrations of DEET will allow the product to work for longer periods of time.  You can use a lower concentration and reapply more frequently, if needed.
  • Read the directions and follow them! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes that as long as you use products with DEET appropriately, the there is no harm.
Natural Repellents
  • Lemon Eucalyptus oil has been shown to be as effective against mosquitoes and ticks as DEET with the added benefit of being a natural product. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Consumer Reports recommend lemon eucalyptus. A July 2010 Consumer Reports study rated Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus just as high as others with DEET. Lemon Eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years of age. You may need to reapply more frequently. 
  • The Whole Body Spa in Westford offers Keep Away Bug Spray which contains mix of essential oils. I have been using this with much success.

How do you keep insects away?

[Photo used under Creative Commons license by Adriadna]



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