CHEMICALS: Would You Eat Your Skin Care Or Cleaning Products?

It has been said that if frogs are placed inside a pot of hot water they will immediately jump out. However if they are put inside tepid water and the heat is slowly increased, they will remain until cooked.

Human beings too show the propensity for unquestioning acceptance of a situation if its harmfulness escalates gradually enough. Most people view it as ‘normal’ that since birth they have been in households with scores of highly toxic cleaning, gardening and home maintenance agents. Such products have serious cautions on the containers advising immediate medical attention “in case of ingestion”. Yet intake is unavoidable. You may not lick them off a plate but you inevitably breathe in their chemical fumes, inhale and wear their fine mist of thousands of droplets, and have their fat bound formulas land on your skin and become directly absorbed into general circulation.

In contrast when you eat something, there is initial digestive breakdown and then absorption through the blood vessels of the small intestine. From here all nutrients and any unusable or toxic elements are sent to the liver for scrutiny. This is ‘first pass metabolism’. The liver either uses any beneficial ingredients for building materials and energy production, or the duds are hopefully detoxified and eliminated. But products that land on your skin don’t receive this cautious censorship. They can move through the paper thin top epidermis layer into the next dermis layer (see website TIPS: …SKIN). Now they get a free ride in the bloodstream to the brain or other sensitive area, perhaps already weakened by lifestyle or genetic factors.

You may invite this chemical invasion. You probably cover yourself with moisturiser, soap, sun block, insect repellant, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, bath and shower products, shaving foam, scrub, deodorant, perfume, spray tan, after shave or cosmetics. Perhaps you are a selective consumer and buy natural body care products. Terms such as ‘natural’ have little regulated definition. A product may declare it is ‘organic’ for instance, but this may be true of only one herb among its twenty synthetic components.

If the product contains water then it is a potential breeding ground for yeast and bacteria. Preservatives such as parabens are then commonly used. Research is ongoing since – worryingly – breast cancer tissue has been found to contain parabens. If instead a product is oil-based and without water then it requires anti-oxidants to prevent the rancidity-like consequences when any oil is exposed to air. Safe products will use a form of vitamin E such as tocopherol to prevent oxidation. The oils used should be cold-pressed and will only have a shelf life of about 6 months. Plant and herbal ingredients will also contribute a protective pharmacopoeia of thousands of anti-oxidants, often associated with a food’s colour and flavour components.

No mercy for babies – or rabbits

Medical science acknowledges how certain ingredients can function as ‘penetration enhancers’ that enable the absorption of other substances. On this basis certain hormones and drugs can be applied to the skin and achieve therapeutic effect somewhere else entirely. What unfortunately is not broadcast is how other undesirable elements may likewise be transmitted to dubious action anywhere in the body. Detergents and the foaming agents sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate (SLS, SLES) for instance are common constituents to shampoos and bath products. These too are classified as penetration enhancers, and will facilitate the body’s absorption of all the other industrial toxins in the formula. It is especially saddening to see that most baby products are full of such noxious chemicals. Predominantly well intentioned government agencies insist that such additives are rigorously tested (usually mercilessly on rabbits). However there is a serious lack of logic to this claim. Each individual toiletry and food additive is tested but no one uses them that way! Thousands of artificial additives are used and eaten each year, usually many at one time. No tests have been done on their cumulative effects.

Many people who are particularly tired with poor immunity, or chronically unwell – particularly with skin, respiratory, mood and nervous system problems – have heightened chemical sensitivity. This likelihood is also true for children and the results are evident in the increasing incidence of asthma and eczema. Some researchers have suggested that these disorders may be related to an immune system under-challenged by too much home cleanliness. They should instead consider the toxic load of what people are cleaning with!

Read all labels. Safe cleaning products such as by EcoStore, Ecover, and BEE are available in most supermarkets. Check other brands for no presence of: SLS, phosphates, benzene, chlorine, formaldehyde, optical whiteners, EDTA (softener), enzymes, synthetic dyes and perfumes, petrochemicals, or ammonia. Try 100% natural body care: Living Nature, Trilogy, Jasons, Dr Hauschka, Waleda, EcoStore, Antipodes, Skin Food, Pure & Clear, on-line ONEProducts, and for babies Mother-Well. Look for plant-based ingredients (many use Latin names); specified plant oils (not petroleum-based ‘mineral oil’); no SLS, SLES, parabens, pthalates, propylene glycol, DEA, ethoxylates, artificial colours/fragrances. Shop with a pocket guide to food and cosmetic additives: The Chemical Maze by Bill Statham; online or from bookstores.

How To Minimise Toxic Chemicals:

• Keep your home and garden as chemical free as possible. Buy 100% natural cleaning agents and toiletries as above. Keep any truly needed toxic product outside the house. Lessening the load like this will increase tolerance at work and school. Particularly avoid cigarette smoke: #1 densest source of cell-damaging free radicals, linked with most disease and premature ageing (damaged fats are the #1 dietary source; see TIPS: The Fats of Life). Do not exercise in peak hour traffic; minimise time at petrol stations. Use other cleaning methods or purchase items that don’t require dry cleaning.

• Buy bulk purified water or install a reverse osmosis filter. Some people need filters attached to all water sources such as the shower. Carry water in glass, or an ultra-light stainless steel ECOtanka with a range of sizes: see Aquadeli or at 4/66 Mt Eden Rd, Auckland – also for bulk and boutique waters.

• Keep the toilet seat lid down before flushing. This prevents the chlorine – and pathogens – from being distributed as a fine mist over all adjacent towels and surfaces. Store toothbrushes in a closed cupboard.

• Check closets, back cupboards, shoes and remove all mould throughout the house. Use safe products as above or dilute vinegar. Dust and vacuum weekly. Air blankets, pillows and mattress in the sun. Buy new pillows annually. Open windows and doors to air the house, remove moisture and volatile toxins. These steps help lessen the load on the respiratory system and thus any airborne sensitivities.

• People who are chemically sensitive most commonly have unaddressed food allergies as well. Obtain an allergy test from this office (see TIPS: Why You May Be Allergic to the 21st Century). As much as possible purchase organic foods (especially dairy products; see TIPS: Modern Milk…) free from agrochemicals; avoid artificial additives and sweeteners (see TIPS: The Deception of MSG…).

• New products made with dye, glue, plastic, paint (car, carpet, furniture etc) will out-gas xenoestrogens (endocrine-disrupting, hormone mimics linked with hormone sensitive cancers) for many months. Keep doors and windows open as much as possible. If pregnant, especially avoid purchasing such items so as to minimise the baby’s exposure (eg studies link phthalates such as in soft plastics with twice the risk of autism). For couples with subfertility (see TIPS: Fertility), there is a considerable likelihood that chemical and xenoestrogen sensitivities play a part in poor conception rates.

• Especially avoid all products with synthetic fragrances. These cling to household surfaces for days and exert a lingering toxicity. In terms of their health risk, such fragrances will soon become as socially unacceptable as cigarette smoke. Even pure but fragrant essential oils – used as aromatherapy inhalants or for skin use – may be too challenging. Wait until harsher products have been eliminated and health has improved, and then test essential oils for acceptability.

Do not prepare food in a microwave. Plastics heated by this technology seep residues into foods, cause free radical damage, and destroy some antioxidants especially carotenes. Do not place hot food in plastic or under plastic wrap. As much as possible store food in glass or china. Do not leave left-overs in opened tins. Cook with cast iron or stainless steel, not aluminium or non-stick.

• Gradually replace mercury amalgams. Consider alternatives to medications. Ensure good channels of elimination (liver, bowel, kidneys and skin; see TIPS articles for each) and healthy immunity to deal with the inevitable toxic tally. The body is superbly designed for renewal. Start by honouring a few priorities and it will gradually educate you about the rest!

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