Cleaner living: Toxin a Day Wrap Up

Whew… that was exhausting!  I’m sure you are thinking right about now that this is completely overwhelming, so many things to remember, look for, learn about.

I felt, and still feel the same way.

It is sad, scary, and a tad mind-boggling that we have to spend so much time, energy, and brain power trying to make informed decisions about the simplest of things… like soap.  There are so many questions that come up?

Why are companies putting these chemicals in our products?

Why are they so reluctant to take them out?

Why can I not just trust that the product on the shelf is safe and doesn’t have the potential to harm me or those I love?

Simple answer… because they can.

The regulating agencies can say that certain ingredients can or cannot be in certain products, but there is absolutely no oversight to make sure that these regulations are followed through on.

It’s like handing your kids a pint of ice cream and an apple to choose from, walking away and hoping they make a healthy decision.

They have highly paid, powerful lobbyists who make sure that legislation continues to go their way.  But we have power too, the kind that also comes also with money. It’s called purchasing power.  We can say we are not going to buy their products unless they clean up their act.

In the end…

What I want readers to come away with from this series is a bit more knowledge and the spark to make some changes in the way we look at the things we use.  You don’t have to completely overhaul your life and have a panic attack every time you walk in the store to buy shampoo.  Small changes can do a wonder in the long-term.

Believe me, I am the first to tell you that I am not perfect when it comes to Cleaner Living everywhere possible.  I do not compost, I eat junk food more than my waistline would like, I REALLY like red lipstick, I use disposable diapers, I get manis and pedis, and my kids have had McDonald’s enough times for them to recognize the golden arches from afar.

But I am trying to make small changes in our lives that we can stick to and feel better about.  I can take some of the worst offenders and eliminate them or dramatically decrease them from our every day use.  I can send a message to manufacturers that i want safe products for my family.

And you can too.

I said I would compile a list of all of the ingredients we talked about to look out for so here it is in alphabetical order.  The toxin is in parentheses next to it:

  • _eth_ such as sodium laureth sulfate (possible contamination of 1,4 dioxane- carcinogen)
  • 1,4 Dioxane (carcinogen)
  • 2 Bromo-2 nitropane- 1,3 Diol (formaldehyde releasing preservative- carcinogen, skin irritant and asthmagen)
  • 5-Bromo-5-Nitro-1,3 Dioxane (formaldehyde releasing preservative- carcinogen, skin irritant and asthmagen)
  • Anti-bacterial products (can promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria)
  • BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole- carcinogen)
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (carcinogen)
  • butylparaben (Parabens- carcinogen)
  • ceteareth (possible contamination of 1,4 dioxane- carcinogen)
  • Coal Tar (carcinogen)
  • DEP (Phthalates- hormone disruptor)
  • diethyl phthalate (Phthalates- hormone disruptor)
  • DMDM Hydantoin (formaldehyde releasing preservative- carcinogen, skin irritant and asthmagen)
  • ethylparaben (Parabens- carcinogen)
  • formaldehyde (carcinogen, skin irritant and asthmagen)
  • Fragrance (Phthalates- hormone disruptor)
  • Hydroquinone (carcinogen, skin irritant)
  • Methenamine (formaldehyde releasing preservative- carcinogen, skin irritant and asthmagen)
  • methylene glycol (formaldehyde+water- carcinogen, skin irritant and asthmagen)
  • methylparaben (Parabens- carcinogen)
  • oleth (possible contamination of 1,4 dioxane- carcinogen)
  • Oxybenzone (carcinogen)
  • oxynol (possible contamination of 1,4 dioxane- carcinogen)
  • PEG’s (possible contamination of 1,4 dioxane- carcinogen)
  • Phthalate derivatives (Phthalates- hormone disruptor)
  • polyethylene (possible contamination of 1,4 dioxane- carcinogen)
  • polyethylene glycol (possible contamination of 1,4 dioxane- carcinogen)
  • polyoxyethylene (possible contamination of 1,4 dioxane- carcinogen)
  • polyurethane foam with a label reading TB117 (Tris fire retardant- cancer, hormone disruptor, neurotoxin)
  • propylparaben (Parabens- carcinogen)
  • quaternium-15 (formaldehyde releasing preservative- carcinogen, skin irritant and asthmagen)
  • Retinol (Retinyl palmitate- carcinogen)
  • Retinyl palmitate (Retinyl palmitate- carcinogen)
  • Sodium Nitrite (nitrosamines in foods- carcinogen)
  • Toco- roots (may contain hydroquinone impurity- carcinogen, skin irritant)
  • Triclocarban (hormone disruptor, can promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria)
  • Triclosan (hormone disruptor, can promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria)
  • Urea (formaldehyde releasing preservative- carcinogen, skin irritant and asthmagen)
  • Vitamin A (carcinogen)

I hope that this has been helpful to some of you, and that you can take at least one thing from this series and make a few changes for a healthier tomorrow.

21 thoughts on “Cleaner living: Toxin a Day Wrap Up

  1. Good Afternoon, I was very impressed with your information.I wanted say thank you and others that have posted. Now I know why my dish washing detergent has been bothering me all these years. I will be checking my lipstick too. Can you provide some products that have a good price and still works well?

    1. Hi Danni, thanks for the comment! I really love Dr. Bronner’s as they are a versatile cleaner for your body and home! Also, if you click through some of my early posts you will find my recipes for home “shampoo,” and a post on the oil cleansing method for your face. In the next few weeks I will be doing posts on several products I like and use as well as a homrmade recipe for deodorant…. Just have to get through some work stuff and find the time to post! Check back soon!

  2. “There are no regulations and no cosmetic licensing that would prevent amateurs to enter the industry”

    There are regulations – and I want to be clear, pointing this out is not a show of support for the FDA. It is simply a fact. Cosmetics and cosmetic companies are regulated. I personally have reported two companies for violating the FDA regulations for violating the law requiring cosmetics companies to use FDA approved colorants – Ava Anderson Non Toxic and 100% Pure. The FDA/FTC regulations require INCI names for ingredients. Violated all the time…but since this is not a violation that kills people…it probably falls far down the list of “to do” – let’s see – check to see that these Ava Anderson perfume are illegally missing the INCI names for carrier oils and allergins and not legally labeling the fragrances as “FRAGRANCE” but calling them essential oils of amber musk, white cranberry and lily of the valley (no such essential oils exist) – or, investigate a drug that just might be killing people or a food that just might be killing people. I understand the reality of an underfunded branch of government. I don’t like it but in the big picture, cheaters are going to cheat and they will always find a way around the law.

    Now licensing…that is a separate issue and I agree with you completely. Your hairdresser has to have a license to trim your bangs but she can sell you soap that might be lye heavy, a lotion growing potentially toxic bacteria, a lip balm that could lead to cancer because the essential oils are phototoxic, or a baby balm made with almond oil which could set your child up for a lifetime of potentially fatal nut allergies.

    In my perfect imaginary world no one would lie and we would not need to police cosmetics. In my perfect world when a kitchen crafter finds out they are using an essential oil that is regulated by the IFRA and that they have put their customers at risk, they say “thanks for telling me” – they feel bad – they take a class in aromatherapy and they learn how to safely formulate with essential oils. Better yet – in my perfect imaginary world, a home crafter has to take a class and prove they know how to formulate safely, sit for an exam that covers preservation, and they have to pass said exam to get a license to sell cosmetics and soap. EVERY soap and cosmetic company should be required to register with the FDA – from the stay at home Mom who sells a few dozen bars of soap at the local farmers market to the large corporations. And everyone should PAY for the privilege of selling these products to consumers – YES – EVERYONE pays (but on a sliding scale). NO exemption for small businesses – if a product is dangerous it is no less dangerous because it’s made in a kitchen and sold at the local health food store than if it is made by a corporation and sold at Macys. And that soap/cosmetic company registration fee goes toward COSMETIC CHEMICAL TESTING! Not by the FDA – but by a neutral agency. A third party that can’t be bought off by lobbying organizations – EWG lobbying included!

    Then…in my imaginary world the FDA, the EPA and representatives from the cosmetics industry sit their butts down and come up with a realistic short list of chemicals of concern. THESE get tested. You cannot prove a negative. You can’t prove something will never cause cancer. But bad science does more harm than good. One bad test and people are freaked out about lavender essential oil. Databases like Skin Deep scare people about allergins when the very same ingredients also present real hope for curing disease. Just because we label peanut butter to alert the people who are allergic, does not mean peanut butter is a toxin or hazard. ANYTHING from nature can be an allergin…but nature also provides our richest potential to cure the worlds illnesses and diseases.

    In my imaginary world anything that has synthetic fragrance would contain a warning like we have on cigarettes. Anything made with or using petrochemicals in processing would be labeled for consumer awareness. REALITY is scary and hazardous enough without faux environmental organizations labeling every hazard a “toxin” and making up imaginary statistics for how many ingredients penetrate the skin and land in the bloodstream. EAT organic. BUY organic. Boycott petrochemicals and synthetic fragrances and everything else you worry about is just icing on the cake.

  3. @ Ana – “Sue, it seems you’re contradicting yourself.” Let me try again.

    The FDA requires cosmetics to be pre-market tested “for safety” by the company making/selling the product before it is sold – OR – they need to alert their customers by including the warning: “Warning–The safety of this product has not been determined.”

    The warning lable is addressed here: 21 CFR 740.10.

    That is a totally separate issue from whether or not the FDA tests cosmetics.

    They don’t, with the exception of random testing and investigations into complaints (like lead in lipstick – in that situation the FDA conducted the testing).

    The FDA doesn’t test cosmetics just like they don’t test drugs. Many people think the FDA does the testing of drugs for approval. They don’t. A pharmaceutical company just has to present two drug trials showing their drug performs better than a placebo. They do NOT have to disclose the tests that showed their drug did NOT perform better in a dozen others! And they sometimes even hide the fact that their drugs cause more harm than good.

    So why think pre-market approval of cosmetics would be any more effective in keeping hazardous cosmetics off store shelves?

    Thousands of people die from pharmaceutical drugs every day. Hundreds of people die of food related illnesses every day. I am no fan of the FDA but I am realistic – death trumps everything else. And in the case of cosmetics, everything else pretty much not backed by scientific proof.

    But do you or I really need the FDA to say ‘don’t buy products with synthetic fragrances’? No. You don’t have to wait until you are in the emergency room with your child, struggling to breathe, to decide to eliminate these hazardous ingredients from your household and personal care products.

    Do you need to have the FDA say ‘mineral oil is a petrochemical and is not a sustainable cosmetic ingredient’ before you choose a natural, sustainable, even USDA Certified Organic alternative to petroleum jelly or mineral oil? No. You can speak with your consumer dollars and say “I boycott products with petrochemicals and synthetic fragrances”.

    That’s what I do.

    We can assume that if the FDA decided to change the law, cosmetic companies would not be placed in a situation where cosmetics would need to be vetted more closely than drugs, so here is where I am confused. Cosmetic companies test their cosmetics for a number of things, since the FDA does not define “for safety”. They test for allergic reactions, they test for safe preservation, they may even test to see if their cosmetic does what they claim it will do but technically, that’s not “safety”. The process of pre-market approval would just require these tests be submitted to the FDA for review. And just like the way drugs that do nothing, or that eventually cause horrific side effects, or even kill thousands of people, pre-market approval is no guarantee of safety.

  4. Sue, it seems you’re contradicting yourself.

    First you say:

    “Right now the FDA cannot require safety testing of products before they are sold”
    This is incorrect. There is a big difference between not requiring pre-market approval of cosmetics (like they do in Europe) and not requiring ANY safety testing!”

    And now you say:

    “The FDA doesn’t test – it’s not their job. If the company selling the cosmetic has NOT tested their product, they are required by law to state a warning on the label.”

    If the FDA requests cosmetic companies to place a warning label if the product has NOT being tested, then the FDA does not require safety testing of products before they are sold! What you claimed was incorrect, it turns out to be correct and by your own words.

    You say by law, but what the FDA actually does is “suggest” to the companies to put a warning on the label or test their products, but doesn’t enforce because, – key here -, there is no way for them to control who does what. Why? Because as of now cosmetic companies are not required to register their companies and formulations with the FDA. As of now, the FDA has no clue at how many cosmetic companies are making cosmetics in this country. So unless the companies register voluntarily, they have no idea what’s happening in the industry.

    The fact that this so important task of testing or not is left on the hands of cosmetic companies alone, is exactly the problem and the reason we’re seeing more cases of cancer than ever in human history. Every cosmetic company does whatever they want even the mom and pop ones and we all have to pray they are doing the right thing. There are no regulations and no cosmetic licensing that would prevent amateurs to enter the industry, and the little regulations in place do nothing to prevent dissasters from happening. Yes, there are a few companies pushing for a change, doing more than what the FDA advises them to do, many of these follow the EU standards, they do their own testing, research and everything that SHOULD be done, these are very transparent companies and many go the extra length to announce what their findings are, but it’s not enough. This SHOULD be the standard, and as it is right now, it’s not, that’s why we see cases like the brazilian blowout, which despite how dangerous this product is, the FDA has done nothing to ban it.

    Go to and see it for yourself. That website is the perfect example the FDA’s job is null. That website is packed with cosmetics that I can assure you have not being tested ever for safety, and many of them don’t even show a list of ingredients so consumers are blindly buying these apparently safe products because someone is making them on their kitchens, basements or garages. What is the FDA doing? nothing, why? because they have no absolute clue these mom&pop companies even exist! why? because there are no laws whatsoever controlling cosmetic companies AT ALL, there are not even licenses for cosmetic companies! anyone with a descent soap formula can start selling soaps right off their kitchen, they just need to register a legal business, buy the supplies and start selling soaps. Where is the FDA in this scenario? who controls these companies, that are by the way popping everywhere, to make sure they are doing the right thing? or maintain sanitary controls? because I assure you a garage is the last place to make cosmetics and one of these new companies is proud to say so on their website! let me tell you who controls these, NO ONE. Only IF and this is a big IF things go wrong in a substantial number, the FDA steps in, if at all, as many of these cases we don’t ever learn about. The brazilian blowout scandal is the perfect example of an industry that is unregulated. If the law as you claim exist, was indeed in place the way it should, these products would have never entered our country.

    The FDA, and this has been proven countless times like you mentioned, does a lousy job right and left. So you have to agree the FDA figure as it is right now is useless, leaving the doors open for a number of bad things to happen and they are happening everywhere.

    You seem to defend the FDA, yet your words and research on the FDA website are contradictory. It looks you’re not quite clear on which side you’re on, or you still believe the FDA and their “laws” are applied by all the cosmetic companies because they say so. We consumers need a change. We need the FDA or whatever other organization to step up and change this toxic mess, start regulating cosmetic companies for real and put an end to this madness, because we’re worth it.

  5. I agree with all your toxins listed except Vit A & Retinyl Palmitate. Retinol is very strong form of Vit A used on the skin, and can cause major skin reactions if not used by a professional who understands short and long-term effects of Vit A. Vit A itself is essential for night vision and good skin health and is the major skin vitamin that fights against skin cancer along with a myriad of other biochemical reactions it is essential for. Applied topically Retinyl Palmitate has been shown to be fully utilized in the skin and is a precursor to Retinyl Acetate and Vit A. Taken internally it can be a concern for overdosing as it is stored in the liver, but by all accords Vit A and it’s derivatives, when applied topically do not travel to the liver

    1. Vivienne,
      You are correct that Vitamin A in our foods and our supplements is good for our health, and I should maybe clarify more that the Vitamin A I am talking about is the kind found in cosmetics and personal care products. If you read the post I did on it here Applied to the skin and exposed to the sun, it can act as a photocarcinogen, speeding the development of skin tumors and lesions.

  6. @ Ana – you ask “How can a product filled with tons of artificial ingredients be proven to be safe if its cosmetic ingredients are not approved or tested in any way?”

    Lack of pre-market approval does not make a product any less safe – or more safe for that matter. In Europe, cosmetics – the actual formulas not just the ingredients – are approved before they are sold. That process does not guarantee safety – cosmetic companies in the USA use substantially the same formulas, raw materials and ingredients as those sold under the EU Cosmetics Directive.

    But what you have said is much more serious – and it is a common misconception. You say cosmetic ingredients are not tested in any way. This is not correct. Take the Skin Deep database for example – somewhere on the EWG website they list the sources of data. If ingredients were never tested – none of this data would exist. So what about the data gaps – the ingredients the EWG has not factored into their database? Does that mean there IS no data? No. Every cosmetic ingredient has been tested for safety…the key is many of the ingredients are tested privately by the company paying for the testing, for their formulas. This data is not published or publically available.

    But let’s say the FDA adopted the same pre-market approval process as they currently use for drugs. Would that make cosmetics any safer? No. Not at all. Just more expensive. 60 Minutes did a hidden camera investigation of the FDA drug approval process which was eye opening. The FDA does not do the testing of drugs or cosmetics, maybe consumers don’t realize that. All they do is some spot checking and they vet the tests submitted by the manufacturers, then they give approval.

    The FDA doesn’t test – it’s not their job. If the company selling the cosmetic has NOT tested their product, they are required by law to state a warning on the label.

    Whether or not a product is hazardous (and toxic is the wrong word because toxic means kills upon use and many of these ingredients are hazards of another nature – they mess with hormones, or are carcinogens – something does not need to kill you to be a danger!) – has nothing to do with whether or not the ingredient is artificial, synthetic or natural. There are PLENTY of natural ingredients that are phototoxic, are carcinogens, disrupt hormones or pollute our air and water.

    Does the FDA enforce the laws. Barely. There are companies using illegal colorants – one of the FEW laws the FDA has are pre-market tested and approved cosmetic colors. These are the ingredients that ARE tested for cancer and other hazards. This list is not static, colors are removed and others are added. Some are safe for food but not for cosmetics. Others are safe for general cosmetic use but not for mucus membranes – aka lipsticks. But some companies use other ingredients that are NOT pre-market tested and this is illegal and goes on every day. Natural ingredients like BEET which is not permitted for cosmetics AND is listed in the food colors with the amount of lead allowed fully disclosed.

    Companies lie about the ingredients in their cosmetics. They tell their customers, for example, that their perfumes are made with essential oils when in fact, they are made with a variety of perfume ingredients but NOT essential oils. There are more ways to hide the ingredients in cosmetics than behind the INCI ingredient name “FRAGRANCE”. A company can just tell their customers all the ingredients are essential oils…and hope they never check to see if these ingredients EVEN EXIST! Essential oils are natural…when the ingredient actually IS an essential oil but that does not automatically mean the cosmetic made with them is safe. Lemon oil, for example, is phototoxic. Many essential oils contain allergins which the EU Cosmetics Directive require be listed on the label (there are a total of 25 constituents of fragrance materials that are required to be labeled in INCI language). Check your perfume’s ingredients…

  7. @Sue, you seem to have purposely forgotten this little paragraph above the one you copied from that FDA link.

    “The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act does not require cosmetic products and ingredients to be approved by FDA before they go on the market, except for color additives that are not intended for use as coal tar hair dyes. However, they must be safe for consumers under labeled or customary conditions of use. Companies and individuals who market cosmetics have a legal responsibility for the safety of their products and ingredients.”

    How can a product filled with tons of artificial ingredients be proven to be safe if its cosmetic ingredients are not approved or tested in any way? The only legal responsibility a cosmetic company has for the safety of their products and ingredients is to pay when they are sued, AFTER the damage was caused (look at what’s happening with the brazilian blowout). The FDA advises and leaves the responsibility to cosmetic companies and doesn’t enforce anything like it happens with drugs. So since it’s not enforced, the FDA has no way to monitor if the company is doing the right thing before those products are sold. The FDA leaves the door open for anything to happen and assumes companies are doing the right thing because they have legally advised them to do so. Only when something goes wrong the FDA acts, if at all. This is unacceptable.

    Like the original post said, the FDA doesn’t test nor requires companies to test when it comes to cosmetics, and this is the truth. If this was the case, the horrendous cases we see everywhere, including the latest one with the brazilian blowout, wouldn’t happen.

  8. Thank you for writing this. I’m just starting a business in Grand Rapids, MI. It is two-part. The first is a small retail space where I’ll have body care products from one line, and am working on wholesale agreement approval with a make-up line. Both company’s products all score ‘0’ on The second is going into people’s homes or offices and holding workshops on how to recognize the toxic ingredients in body care products. The information you provided will be added to my presentation. Thank you for your hard work and commitment towards this issue!

  9. “Right now the FDA cannot require safety testing of products before they are sold”

    This is incorrect. There is a big difference between not requiring pre-market approval of cosmetics (like they do in Europe) and not requiring ANY safety testing!

    “must be safe for consumers under labeled or customary conditions of use. Companies and individuals who market cosmetics have a legal responsibility for the safety of their products and ingredients.

    Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. Rather, FDA has consistently advised manufacturers to use whatever testing is necessary to ensure the safety of their products and ingredients. Firms may substantiate safety in a number of ways. FDA has stated that “the safety of a product can be adequately substantiated through (a) reliance on already available toxicological test data on individual ingredients and on product formulations that are similar in composition to the particular cosmetic, and (b) performance of any additional toxicological and other tests that are appropriate in light of such existing data and information.”


    Calfornia Baby reformulated their products, replacing their preservatives and changing many of the base ingredients — they called these “tweeks” but in some cases the changes were sufficient that it was a total reformulation. Customers started contacting the company when they notice the changes either visually, the change in scent – or more seriously — with terrible rashes and itching. I saw some photos before the company pulled ALL of the complaints off their Facebook page — these were reactions that would send someone to the emergency room…I kid you not! Horrible, swollen, red, inflamed skin that looked almost like a radiation burn!! The company told the customers “we didn’t change anything, you must have just developed an allergy or a sensitivity”. It was months before they admitted they actually did change formulas. There is a page on Facebook with more information:!/pages/California-Baby-Complaints/241914029218867?sk=info

    1. My understanding is that there are two problems people may have with sodium benzoate. Sodium Benzoate is the salt form of benzoic acid (benzoic acid can be found naturally in small quantities in cranberries), but the one you find on the label of foods and products is completely synthetic- unnatural. Also there is the chance that when sodium benzoate mixes with acsorbic acid (Vitamin C) it can form benzene, which is considered to be a carcinogen. I think people are most up in arms about the claims that such products as CA Baby are “all natural” yet now contain synthetic materials like sodium benzoate. I also got from the forums that people were mad that they were being told that no formulation changes had been made, when clearly they had. From what I have read, the carcinogenic effects happen when very high levels of sodium benzoate are consumed and used topically, which is probably why the EWG still rates it so low as the regulations for concentration in food at least are .1% of weight, though i am not certain if their are similar standard for cosmetics and personal care products. My advice is if you still feel uncomfortable using it, stop. I’ll be doing a review of Dr. Bronners soon, which is what i use for bath soap (and a host of other things). Hope that helps!

  10. Thank you so much for doing all this work and sharing the information you uncovered. I appreciate it and will start reading the labels on all baby, beauty and cleaning products before I buy them. I think your point about the cumulative effects of all these chemicals should be considered seriously. If you think about it, we all essentially cover ourselves in chemicals every day between cleaning products, beauty treatments, and synthetic fabrics distilled from petroleum by-products. Then we can’t figure out why so many people develop serious health problems or experience infertility. I think the answer is right under our noses.

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