Who can you trust? Apparently no one! Companies I have long trusted as green and natural have been exposed by the Center for Health and Environmental Justice (CHEJ):
So-called green products contain hidden toxic chemicals that are not on product labels.
Shit. Excuse my language, but I feel jaded.
Ecover? Seventh Generation? You have let me down.
RESULTS: We detected 55 compounds, indicating a wide range of exposures from common products. Vinyl products contained >10% DEHP and could be an important source of DEHP in homes. In other products, the highest concentrations and numbers of detects were in the fragranced products perfume, air fresheners, and dryer sheets, and in sunscreens. Some products that did not contain the well-known EDC phthalates contained other less-studied phthalates (also EDCs), suggesting a substitution. Many detected chemicals were not listed on labels.
EDCs=endocrine disruptor chemicals
I expect as much from Colgate, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble, but what about my favorite green brands? Forbes explains:
Perhaps most surprising about the study’s findings was the use of various chemicals of concern in products marketed as “green” or “natural.” It’s not just that finding out their favorite non-toxic product actually contains potentially harmful chemicals is likely to make consumers angry, but also that manufacturers could feasibly be putting themselves at risk of legal action for being in violation of the Federal Trade Commission’s green guides.
The study used the following criteria for “alternative” products:
A product was classified as alternative if the label indicated that excluded chemicals were absent, or the label listed ingredients and did not list excluded terms. Many of the products that met our criteria for alternative products were marked as “green.”…
We purchased most alternative products at a nation-wide store specializing in natural products, so products met the store’s selection criteria, which favored non-petroleum- based, and especially plant-based, ingredients.
Skimming the study, here are some alarming findings from the “alternative” products:
- The most frequently detected compounds in alternative products, including the calculated composite sunscreen, were two natural fragrance compounds, an alkylphenol, methyl paraben and DEP
- The alternative shampoo sample had 2.4% diethanolamine.
- With the exception of shaving cream, products were not considered alternative if parabens were listed as an ingredient. Nevertheless, in alternative products, we detected parabens in 7 products, including 3 sunscreens, that did not list parabens on the label.
- Three phthalates were found only in alternative products: di- cyclohexyl phthalate (DCP), di-isononyl phthalate (DINP), and di-n-propyl phthalate (DPP). These compounds may have been introduced as substitutes for the better-known anti-androgenic phthalates (DBP, BBP, DEHP), even though they are also EDCs, with similar (DCP) or lesser (DINP, DPP) potency (Boberg et al. 2011; Hannas et al. 2011; Heindel et al. 1989; Saillenfait et al. 2009). The alternative shaving cream contained 5 different phthalates, illustrating the potential for simultaneous exposures to multiple phthalates, which act cumulatively on endocrine targets (NRC 2008).
- BPA was not detected in alternative samples except sunscreen, so selecting alternative products according to our criteria appears to avoid BPA. No labels listed BPA.
- We detected MEA in conventional glass cleaner and laundry detergent (>1000 μg/g) and alternative surface cleaner, glass cleaner, and shampoo (<400 μg/g). The highest DEA concentration was in the alternative shampoo at 24,000 μg/g, or 2.4% by weight. DEA was detected in the composite sample of conventional dryer sheets (840 μg/g) and 4 other conventional and alternative cleaning and personal care product samples (<150 μg/g): conventional face lotion and alternative tube and tile cleaner, mascara and shaving cream.
- In our alternative products selected to allow only plant-based fragrance, synthetic fragrance chemicals were detected only in the facial cleanser, floor cleaner and one sunscreen at less than 100 μg/g.
- Natural fragrance chemicals were common in conventional and alternative products. Most common natural fragrance chemicals included the terpenes limonene, hexyl cinnamal, and linalool.
- Only one sample, sunscreen, of the 26 alternative samples with no detectable fragrance compounds, had a reference to “fragrance” on the label, specifically listing “fragrance oil blend.”
- We detected glycol ethers in 3 conventional cleaners, face lotion, polish/wax, sunscreen, and in alternative shaving cream, pillow protector, and sunscreen samples.
- While we detected phenoxyethanol in conventional and alternative sunscreen samples, we did not detect this chemical in some conventional and alternative samples made up of products labeled as containing this compound; possibly levels were below detection limits.
- All three cyclosiloxanes were detected in the alternative composite sunscreen, with D5 and D6 at >4000 μg/g and the conventional car interior cleaner at <100 μg/g. One cyclosiloxane was detected in the conventional sunscreen (D5; 50 μg/g) and alternative shaving cream (D6; 10 μg/g). No product analyzed for cyclosiloxanes indicated “siloxane” on the label; however, two alternative sunscreens were labeled cyclomethicone, a generic name for polydimethylsiloxane, which includes D4, D5 and D6.
- We detected lower concentrations of three UV filters in conventional sunscreen and shaving cream and in 4 of 5 alternative sunscreens, and none of these were labeled.
What is most alarming is the combination of these chemicals, even if you are using only natural and green products, as my family does:
Our results also indicate use of multiple products can lead to exposure to an even larger mixture of compounds, even if a consumer selected products considered alternative according to our criteria. For example, a consumer who used the alternative surface cleaner, tub and tile cleaner, laundry detergent, bar soap, shampoo and conditioner, facial cleanser and lotion, and toothpaste (a plausible array of product types for an individual) would potentially be exposed to at least 19 compounds: 2 parabens, 3 phthalates, MEA, DEA, 5 alkylphenols, and 7 fragrances.
Labeled or unlabeled, I fear I can no longer trust the companies that I have touted for so long. I could not find a list of the actual products tested, which I would like to see to know which ones to avoid.
“This new study found PVC products, including a pillow protector and shower curtain, contained high levels of the toxic phthalate DEHP,” explains Mike Schade from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice. “Phthalates have been banned in toys, but are widespread in many PVC products children come in contact with in schools and even at home. Phthalates have been linked to asthma, adverse impacts on brain development, and reproductive health problems in baby boys. Thankfully, there are safer cost-effective alternatives to phthalate-laden PVC products for our schools and homes.”
“Many products are targeted to women of color who suffer from high health disparities that can be linked directly to the endocrine disruptors found in these products. We can only hope that studies like this one inspire better policies and regulations of these dangerous chemicals,” saysJanette Robinson-Flint from Black Women for Wellness. “Mother shouldn’t have to be a biochemist to protect themselves and their families from toxic chemicals in everyday products.”