Tuesday, June 18, 2013

throwing it out with the bath water.

It was bathtime. Someone had given us a Night-time Baby Bath made by a common generic brand and it was sitting in the upstairs bathroom. The bottle said it was supposed to "release fragrant aromas that calm and relax your baby while you gently cleanse him/her" and claimed it to be a "natural way to help your baby have a restful night"; I was too lazy to go downstairs and get the organic soap made with essential oils that I usually use, so I figured why not and poured a little in the bath.

A few seconds in, the smell of "lavender" was so horribly fake I decided to look at the ingredients list. I generally do this whenever I am considering buying a product and steer clear of anything with ingredients I don't know the composition or purpose of. Since this was a gift I hadn't given it much thought. After seeing the long list of words I could hardly pronounce I promptly poured out the bath water and drew a new bath.

I get a lot of criticism for being too over-cautious from some family and friends. They roll their eyes when I won't let my baby eat something that wasn't grown organically or be covered in chemical-riddled sunscreens or when they hear I am vegan. Well you know what? Let's go through the ingredients list on this one random bottle of baby body wash in a whole sea of baby body washes and see why I am the way I am.

This seems like it is harmless. Water is harmless when it's just water. But beauty products with water on the ingredients list should be avoided because any formula that contains water must contain a preservative. Preservatives are usually known or suspected xenoestrogens, an endocrine disrupting chemical that imitates estrogen and have been linked to high rates of breast cancer, endometriosis (a painful condition affecting the uterine tissue), unusually early onset of puberty, infertility, miscarriages, decreased sperm count, prostate and testicular cancers.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine
What is it? A surfactant (it gives the wash its foaming, lathering and cleansing properties).
What's it made from? Coconut oil and dimethylaminopropylamine.
Concerns? It is a known skin, eye, and lung irritant.  At high temperatures and under acidic conditions, it can also form carcinogenic nitrosamines (although the temperature would need to be 350 degrees or more). Also concerning is that residues from processing (amidoamine and 3-dimethylaminopropylamine) can remain in the product, potentially causing contact dermatitis, eye irritation, and other allergic reactions. Cocamidopropyl betaine was named Allergen of the Year by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2004.

PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate
What is it? A polymer of ethylene oxide used for fragrance, binding and surfactant purposes.
What's it made from? It is a is an ethoxylated sorbitan monoester of Lauric Acid with an average of 80 moles of ethylene oxide.
Concerns? There is a low concern about organ system toxicity.

Sodium Trideceth Sulfate
What is it? A sodium salt of sulfated ethoxylated Tridecyl Alcohol, used as a foaming agent.
Classified as not expected to be potentially toxic or harmful to people or the environment.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate
What is it? A widely used detergent and surfactant that can be derived from coconut oil or petroleum by-products.  It is commonly used as an industrial degreaser.
Concerns? Sodium Laureth Sulfate is an ethoxylated compound and during the creation process it is  processed with ethylene oxide which is a known carcinogen. Traces of ethylene oxide and 1,4-Dioxane (another known carcinogen) can be found in the detergent. It's also a skin irritant that can lead to and aggrivate skin conditions like eczema and an eye irritant that has been shown to cause cataracts in adults and inhibit the proper formation of eyes in small children. Sodium laureth sulfate is commonly used in laboratory testing.  When companies need to test the efficiency of lotion, they first have to irritate skin.  To do so, they use sodium laureth sulfate.

Sodium Lauroamphoacetate
What is it? An amphoteric organic compound used as a foam booster.
Classified as not expected to be potentially toxic or harmful to people or the environment.

Polysorbate 20
What is it? A fragrance component, a surfactant, an emulsifying agent, and a solubilizing agent. Although it's derived from a natural ingredient, it is not natural--it is an ethoxylated compound.
Concerns? Polysorbate starts out as harmless sorbitol, but then it's treated with carcinogenic ethylene oxide.  It's called Polysorbate 20 because it's treated with 20 "parts" of ethylene oxide.  The higher the number, the more ethylene oxide it has been treated with.  This substance is then combined with various fatty acids. There is a risk that it could be contaminated with ethylene oxide, and subsequently, 1,4 dioxane.  In addition, it can be laced with heavy metals.

PEG-150 Distearate
What is it? A polyethylene glycol diester of stearic acid used as a cleansing and solubilizing agent.
Classified as not expected to be potentially toxic or harmful to people or the environment with limited evidence of sense organ toxicity.

Sodium Benzoate
What is it? A preservative.
It is known to be a neurotoxin to aquatic animals and is toxic/lethal at high doses in humans. Animal studies have shown some developmental abnormalities. Rats and mice given moderate doses of sodium benzoate showed decreased weight and some endocrine disruption, however, at low doeses there were no effects. Animal studies have shown it to be toxic to the liver at moderate doses. When combined with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or citric acid, it forms benzene, a known carcinogen.  This is a common problem in soft drinks. One study found that sodium benzoate created free radicals in the body, destorying mitochondrial DNA, adding to the body's aging process.

What is it? A combination of chemicals intended to produce the synthetic version of a desired scent.
Concerns? A 1986 report by the National Academy of Sciences noted that 95 percent of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum and include benzene derivatives (carcinogenic), aldehydes, toluene, and many other known toxins linked to cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions. A 2001 study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that synthetic fragrances were often shown to contain hormone disruptors linked to abnormal cell reproduction.

Citric Acid
What is it? A weak acid naturally present in fruit. It's usually used in cosmetics to balance the pH.
Concerns? It might cause a little bit of irritation at full strength (think of lemon juice on a paper cut) but used in tiny quantities in cosmetics probably won't cause irritation. However, when combined with sodium benzoate (which is present in this product, as seen above) it forms benzene, which is a known carcinogen.

Why oh why do we bathe our babies in known carcinogens, or even products that could be potential carcinogens or skin irritants? These are our babies for crying out loud!!! We wonder why everyone we know has cancer! Maybe we should literally stop bathing in cancer-causing agents!!!

There are always natural alternatives. Next time I want a soothing bed-time bath for my babes, I will add a few drops of essential oil of lavender and call it good.

Chemical of the Day
Environmental Working Group's Cosmetic Database

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