Sofie Wise

Maria Shikary

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About Author — Dr. Shikary is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Medicine, and trained in pediatrics at UCSF in San Francisco. She specializes in holistic/integrative medicine and nutrition.

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Ever wonder what’s really in your shampoo? The list of ingredients in many household beauty products can go on and on, but how many of us actually know where those ingredients come from and what they do to our health? If you’re in the dark, here’s a breakdown of two popular ingredients and also toxic chemicals commonly found in your shampoo and other household products.

Parabens
Parabens are a group of compounds including methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben that are used as preservatives in common skin cleansers and shampoos. The FDA states that parabens are safe to use in levels below 25% and most products contain somewhere between 0.01% and 0.3% parabens. So what’s the big deal? Over 90% of typical grocery store items contain parabens so even though each individual product may contain a small amount, when we add up all the products we use on a daily basis, we get alarmingly close to the limit that the FDA has set. Moreover, the Cosmetics Ingredient Review, which reviews the safety of these products and gives recommendations to the FDA, is an industry sponsored organization – a conflict of interest in my opinion.

Phthalates
Phthalates are another group of chemicals that are used to make products soft and flexible. They are found in many different personal care products including shampoos, hair sprays, perfumes, nail polish and in plastics such as packaging and baby toys. Phthalates increase the risk of breast cancer two-fold and are listed by the National Institutes of Health as a known carcinogen. In the EU a safe daily exposure level to a certain phthalate called DEPH is listed as 0.05mg/kg of body weight per day however multiple studies have shown that exposure levels in children can be up to 20 times higher than the recommended limit.

Parabens and phthalates have weak estrogen like properties and are considered endocrine disrupters. These compounds have been implicated in reproductive problems and breast cancer. A small British study that observed 20 women with breast cancer found that 19 of them contained parabens in their breast tissue. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that parabens cause breast cancer, but it’s interesting and somewhat scary that compounds developed just 50 years ago are now taking up residence in our breast tissue and other parts of our body. <a href=http://www.nature.com/articles/jes201369.epdf?referrer_access_token=sMSaT0iYev-me8JRQOEeGdRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0P9jQ-p7mDj7PSM-5DhiEIxk1ra4W_FqMZyXZ6LBHhfr2KTI8XcFXUrkNz7gcogg1vy1I7Mdpy6pkjw2LRnGU6EM5KR4ybYT5XU2LProhHbUUqgX9Z455YQXtJZObOMRPfNv9gOD3lBRNLJYc17Ruyk67D2wxzH5FgbacBeY6aTWwpqZRUeBz5HaVTUBgpvBxrhRsKkqMOfVu1-dQCAqrqyGmGmEEa4V5tgDlvQVTlpCSiS48E1OPKCmL4JRlovOwuQs5bZ6VgM92j1yZrj-FXIrHNOZaqt5rRNcnKYRCH-Q%3D%3D&tracking_referrer=www.washingtonpost.com/> Another study conducted on 226 pregnant women found that women using lotions, perfumes and cosmetics had up to a 221% increase in parabens and phthalates. Parabens and many other chemicals have also been found in cord blood, which is blood that goes from the mother to her developing fetus during pregnancy. This is a pressing issue because even very small amounts of these substances can potentially disrupt the proper development of a fetus. Due to their smaller size, neonates and infants are more susceptible to the negative impact of these chemicals than adolescent children or adults. Additionally, some researchers believe that the increase in toxic chemicals in our environment have contributed to the increased incidence of eczema and other skin conditions.

Feeling overwhelmed? Not all is lost. It starts with being observant of what you’re buying, looking at the ingredients listed on the back of a package and avoiding anything that has the word paraben or phthalate in it. There are great websites like Environmental Working Group and Silent Spring that can help you choose between different products and use products more safely.


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