Cosmetics pose health risks

Reporter: Nancy Ellis

Is there lead in that lipstick you put on every Friday night? Do you think that using it only once a week won’t be too bad for you? But what if your body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, shower gel, bath oil, hand soap and even towels—contained stuff that could kill you—give you cancer or upset your immune system? What if those ingredients could lower your thyroid or upset your liver more than your Friday night drinks would?
Sure the government has safety rules that allow only a certain amount of problem-causing chemicals into each product, but what if that moderate amount is in almost every daily hygienic product you pick up at the drug store or supermarket?
Di (2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate (DEHP) is a plasticizer for polyvinylchloride (PVC) and other polymers including rubber, cellulose and styrene. It is used in the production of foods and beverages as tubing and packaging materials. DEHP has 26 trade names and synonyms that allow it to be hidden among a long list of ingredients.
Although there is no data on reproductive and developmental problems, the amount of toxicity that appears in rodents is relevant to humans. Health Canada advises that precautions be taken, limiting exposure especially in male newborns, infants and young children. Pregnant women should also be careful. Your Tupperware and plastic containers don’t list their ingredients, do they? The plastic bottles, pre-packaged food containers, cosmetics containers or shampoo bottles don’t volunteer their plastic ingredients.
Triclosan is another problem-causing ingredient. It’s now going back into the lab to be studied after 30 years on the market. Triclosan is an antiseptic used to destroy bacteria and fungi. It is found in hand soaps, deodorants, body washes, toothpastes and mouthwashes too.
It also has more than one name, including triclocarban, the brand name, Microban, any quaternary ammonium compounds and other brand names. Triclosan, which has been said to create resistance to antibiotics and to disrupt thyroid function, has been used in many products for years.
As consumers we are put at risk, treated like science experiments and later—much, much later are told certain ingredients cause great problems. The government should be testing chemicals before they are used in cosmetics and daily products.
I do believe some mistakes can be made—maybe a chemical or two were not tested as much as they should’ve been, but at the moment no one tests cosmetics and daily products. This is unacceptable.
Health Canada puts their faith in the hands of the manufacturer. Health Canada only steps in when something serious occurs.
There are labeling rules, and regulations that deem the products must be made in sanitary conditions and not contain over the regulated amount of lead, mercury and other things listed on the Cosmetics Ingredient Hotlist.
This list is available through Health Canada and contains ingredients such as mercury, lead and chemicals you’ve likely never heard of listed as dangerous with potential to harm. It’s an official list of prohibited and restricted cosmetics ingredients. Although the Cosmetics Ingredient Hotlist is a great help, 22 new substances have been added to the hotlist sine June 2010.
Allowing manufacturers to include almost whatever they’d like in our cosmetics is harmful. This could be prevented if the government aided in regulating and testing ingredients before they are manufactured and mass distributed.
What are the cumulative results of using all of these products on an everyday basis with the minimum amount of harmful ingredients?
The government needs to study these cumulative affects. The effects of the products used in combination and their effects over time.

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