Cracking Down on Chemicals: What You Need to Know
As a European company, we’re well-aware of the different chemicals that are not yet outlawed in the United States but are viewed as dangerous or potentially dangerous in other areas of the world. It’s no secret that the United States has fallen behind the European countries in banning certain chemicals like artificial food coloring. Once the United States bans chemicals, companies are typically given several years to phase out the use of those materials in their production process.
So what’s a health-conscious momma to do when she wants to protect her family from potentially dangerous chemicals, and there’s so much hype around which ones to avoid? You’ve got to be an educated consumer, and that means reading labels and knowing what to look for. Here, we present some of the most common culprits. All of these chemicals are banned in the European Union due to their potentially harmful effects – but you’ll still find them on the shelves in America.
In Your Home
Yes, we’re talking about the innocent-sounding baby powder that has been used to pat baby bums dry for generations. Talc originally contained asbestos, which is unequivocally bad for you. But research has shown that even asbestos-free talc can cause cancerous tumors in lab animals. The American Cancer Societysuggests that people limit exposure to talc, as it may increase the likelihood of ovarian and lung cancers. The link between talcum powder and cancer haslong been debated, but when a substance is identified as “possibly carcinogenic,”we steer clear!
What, exactly, is “fragrance”? Well, it turns out it’s a trade secret, so companies don’t have to reveal the ingredients that make their products smell a particular way. Almost any chemical compound can be slipped into a product as part of the fragrance, and consumers would be none the wiser. This includes synthetic musksand phthalates, which can disrupt hormone production; toxic volatile organic compounds; and neurotoxins, which harm the brain and may even play a role in autism. The American Academy of Dermatologistsrecommends that consumers avoid any product with “fragrance” listed in the ingredients, and we wholeheartedly agree.
In Your Clothes
Dimethylformamide, or DMF, is found in many types of clothing, from children’s pajamas to women’s sandals. Clothes that are labelled stain-repellant, water-repellant, or sweatproof are commonly treated with DMF. Before you pick up a new pair of flattering yoga pants or summer’s latest espadrilles, check to see if they’re made with synthetic materials. That typically means they’ve been treated with some kind of chemical like DMF. Contact with DMF can cause all kinds of medical problemsincluding cancer, reproductive issues, and liver damage. And DMF is easily absorbed through the skin, so it’s a definite no-no for clothing.
Most dyed clothingis colored with an azo dye, a synthetic compound that gives our apparel its vibrant shades. About 5% of those azo dyes break down into carcinogenic amines, or cancer-causing substances. Governments were first alerted to its toxicity when employees of dye factories began getting bladder cancer at incredibly high rates. The EU has banned azo dyes from any product that might come into contact with human skin, including bedding, clothing, and wigs. There’s no way for you to tell if the azo dye breaks down into a carcinogen or not, so opt for organic, naturally-dyed fabrics instead.
In Your Food
Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) and Potassium Bromate
Bromine is bad, and more bromine is worse. Why? Your body can’t get rid of bromine – it just accumulates in your fatty tissue. Excessive consumption of BVOcan cause headaches and memory loss, which is why it is banned in the EU and Asia. And potassium bromate is even worse. This “enriching agent” for flour is commonly used in all kinds of baking goods, despite the fact that research showsit increases cancerous tumors in lab animals.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) gives your lipstick that glossy shine…and puts a high gloss on your supermarket apples, too. This food additive is classified by the National Toxicology Programas “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” According to the EU, BHA is an endocrine disruptor that can affect hormone production and development – especially worrisome for our children. Research on BHAis conflicting, with some studies finding that it’s beneficial in high doses and harmful in low doses, and other studies finding the reverse. As long as there’s any doubt, though, we’re siding with the Europeans and staying away from BHA.
Can I Avoid Chemicals?
It’s impossible to avoid every possibly carcinogenic compound out there, especially since many of these ingredients (particularly in clothing and household products) aren’t listed on the label. Rather than looking for specific ingredients to avoid, focus on finding products that are freeof certain things – fragrance-free, dye-free, phthalate-free, etc. Opt for the natural and/or organic route whenever possible, even if that means your clothes get a bit smellier and sweatier or your apples aren’t quite as shiny. It’ll be worth it in the long run!