Personal & Household Care
It’s ironic, isn’t it? We have made great strides in creating cyberspace miracles, human growth hormones, Blackberries and sophisticated GPS navigation systems. We have also mixed and combined chemicals and created all sorts of products for our home and our personal hygiene.
Take a leisurely stroll in the aisle of your favorite supermarket. How many toothpaste brands do you see? How many bath soaps for your baby are available? How many toilet and kitchen cleaning solutions are begging to be taken off the shelf to make their way to your home?
Here’s a question for you: have you read the list of ingredients in most of these products? Does Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) mean anything to you?
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and the Others
SLS is one of many chemicals used for the majority of personal hygiene products: shampoos, soaps, body wash and facial toners. Manufacturers of these products like to use this particular substance because it is not expensive and has proven to be an excellent foaming agent. It is also called Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLES).
So what is most interesting about SLS, especially for consumers? There are two things worth noting:
- The US Federal Food and Drug Administration has encouraged manufacturers to remove SLS as an ingredient, although to-date there are no federal regulations to reinforce the removal of SLS.
- SLS has been known for a long time to be an irritant.
SLS has not only made its way to the personal hygiene routine of individuals, but also figures prominently in the manufacture of industrial products such as car cleaners and industrial soaps because of its ability to eliminate grease and dirt, thanks to its potent and caustic properties.
There’s something else interesting: as part of routine testing, researchers use Sodium Lauryl Sulfate to test animal and human skin in laboratories in an effort to create products that can fight the negative consequences brought about by SLS use.
The Dangers of SLS and other Chemicals
According to studies conducted at the University of Georgia Medical College, SLS penetrates in various parts of the body such as the liver, brain and heart. It can harm the vision of young people; a few cases have shown that long-term exposure to high concentrations of SLS can lead to cataracts in children. Since it is an irritant and has caustic qualities, it can also potentially cause skin infections and hair loss.
When SLS comes into contact with other reactive substances that are also found in skin care products, it can lead to nitrate formations which some observers believe are carcinogens.
According to one online report, one thousand new chemicals are introduced every year and “the FDA simply can’t keep up.” Another online report that quoted the Poison Control Center said that as of 1999, reported cases regarding exposure to harmful chemicals found in household products and personal care products totaled more than two million. The # 1 source are household cleaning products, # 2 are pharmaceuticals (analgesics in particular) and # 3 are personal hygiene substances. When health issues in young children are concerned, personal hygiene products constitute the # 1 culprit.
Note that SLS is not the only chemical you should be wary of. Read the ingredients of any of your household and personal care products. These are some substances you should be vigilant about:
- Ethylene glycol (car cleaning products)
- Formaldehyde (air fresheners and disinfectants)
- Phenols and Ammonia (disinfectants)
- Ammonium hydroxide (spot removers)
- Dibutyl-phthalates (cosmetics)
The Benefits of Using Chemical-Free Household and Personal Care Products
The benefits of using chemical-free household and personal care products are two-pronged: they are definitely safer
- For our health
- For the environment
We obtain concrete benefits by using natural-based products for our homes and for our personal care:
- Plant-based ingredients are natural, do not contain dangerous chemicals
and are not toxic. They do not contribute to toxicity levels in the human body.
- Natural ingredients are non-corrosive and hence do not affect our skin, eyes and nerve tissues
- Some chemicals have carcinogen qualities; by avoiding long-term exposure to these carcinogens, we help prevent the onset of diseases like cancer, respiratory problems, allergies, cardiac arrest, depression and anxiety.
- Natural-based products are just as effective as chemical-based products. For cleaning our homes, there are many excellent products that eliminate dirt, grease and grime just as effectively as chemical-based aerosols and cleaners.
- By using natural-based products, we protect our brain, liver and heart from unnecessary exposure to dangerous chemicals.
- Our children’s vision is not compromised when we choose to use chemical-free products.
- Individuals have healthier and more disease-resistant complexions when they do not use cosmetics that contain dibutyl-phthalates.
- Scented products contain certain chemicals that can irritate the skin, eyes and hair of sensitive individuals. Long-term inhalation or absorption of these chemical-based scents can be toxic and can lead to allergies.
- Protection of newborns and young children – no one will argue that natural-based or organic products are healthier for babies and young children.
- Natural-based products are safer to store in the home especially when members of the family are prone to asthma or hives, or easily become dizzy and have frequent headaches.
- Organic or natural products come in different scents and flavors that won’t harm our skin or eyes. Who can say no to peppermint, avocado, cucumber, citrus or cinnamon scents?
- Using chemical-based products means using chemical preservatives. These allow us to keep products for longer periods of time because chemical preservatives prolong product shelf-life. But when these products are on the shelf too long, we are potentially exposing our family members to certain harmful substances.
- Respect for the environment – individuals who opt for natural or organic products have made the conscious effort of protecting the environment. Many chemical-based products are disposable and hence left-over or residual chemicals are thrown into our rivers and lakes.
- By patronizing organic and natural-based products, we demonstrate our support for individuals, groups and associations who wish to promote the home-grown, “Made-in-the-USA” industries.
- By using natural-based products, we open our eyes and broaden our horizons about what Mother Nature has in abundance. There are actually thousands of plants and herbs and their respective extracts that can be “harvested” to develop products for the home and for our personal care.
- By using natural based or organic products, we stop the wheels of industry from churning out unhealthy smoke and pollution when chemicals are used for the manufacture of household products.
“Get Smart” with Chemical-Free Household and Personal Care Products
Governments in most industrialized nations make the effort to educate consumers about the safe handling of household and personal care products. Because they contain harmful substances and chemicals that become dangerous to human health after prolonged exposure, members of the public are invited to read labels carefully and to know the difference between the words “harmful”, “dangerous” and “caution.”
Children are the most vulnerable ones in the family when it comes to potential unhealthy exposure so teaching them what “danger” means and what they should do and not do is imperative. Keep all household and personal care products away from them. Do not remove products from their original containers. They should be stored in a safe place in their original containers and safety labels must not be removed or hidden from view. Do not mix chemicals or combine two or three different products as they could emit harmful gases.
Before You Spray
Most homeowners like their kitchens and toilets smelling nice. Creatures of habit, they absent-mindedly pick up their favorite brand air freshener and spray indiscriminately. We use air fresheners more frequently when we’re expecting guests, since not only do we want our houses looking spanking clean, but smelling nice as well.
But before you pick up that aerosol spray, think about what researchers in the University of Washington said: headaches, eye problems and other irritations were reported even by healthy male college students when they were exposed to certain chemicals or compounds. According to the article written by Sandi Daughton of the Seattle Times online version, a survey of over 2,000 people in 2004 and 2005 revealed that 20% of these people became ill or experienced some kind of discomfort when exposed to air fresheners. Those with asthma reported a figure that was twice as high; in fact up to 37% of them complained of headaches or of difficult breathing.
Chemical-Free Products: for a Healthier Earth
The by-products of industry have had a profound impact on the ecological life of our planet. Whatever rich biodiversity we have left is threatened by the proliferation of chemicals and preservatives.
The movement towards the adoption of natural or organic products has gained momentum, not only because of the menace to our environment but also because of the health risks to humans, animals and plant life.
You can make a contribution starting today. Buy natural household and personal care products and buy American. Join hands with your fellow citizens and take a firm stand against chemical-based products. Natural products can do just as good a job in cleaning our homes and supporting our personal care habits, if not better.
Start your children young. Tell them about the benefits of using chemical-free products for their personal care. Get them into the natural or organic habit. Our future generation deserves only the safest products. Green products are the only way to go when it comes to our health and the health of the earth.