Many personal-care products contain toxic chemicals not listed on labels
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Trying to avoid phthalates? What about 1,4-dioxane or formaldehyde? Good luck with locating these and other toxic chemicals in the product fine print. Sheltered behind ambiguous terms like "fragrance" (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/08/beyond-parabens.php) or smuggled in as trace contaminants or the byproducts of chemical processing, these hidden hazards sail by undeclared because loopholes in our ingredient-labeling laws exempt companies from listing them.
Sidestepping undercover toxins is no easy feat, but Malkan suggests examining labels for chemicals that are likely to be contaminated, including urea, quarternium-15, PEG compounds, and sodium laureth sulfate. The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/) is another great resource for researching the contents of your products and how likely they are to be tainted. "But it's important to do more than just read labels, we also have to consider which companies we can trust," she says. "Which companies are standing up for what's right? Unfortunately, none of the major mainstream cosmetics companies have committed to removing carcinogens or other harmful contaminants."
Companies that donate to breast-cancer research still use carcinogens in their products
Every October, we're barraged with a cavalcade of pink-ribbon products promoting breast-cancer awareness and research. The biting irony: Many of them may actually be contributing to the same disease (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/10/think_before_you_pink.php) they purport to seek a cure for.
Cosmetics companies, including Estée Lauder, Revlon, and Avon, are some of the worst offenders, touting rosy-hued wares that include known reproductive toxins, hormone-disrupting chemicals, and carcinogens. In fact, as part of the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrance Association trade group, the companies opposed a California bill that would require cosmetics firms to disclose their use of chemicals(http://www.breastcancerfund.org/site/pp.asp?c=kwKXLdPaE&b=1104835) linked to cancer or birth defects.
An ounce of prevention
In 2007, the Silent Spring Institute and Susan B. Komen for the Cure released a scientific review identifying 216 chemicals that cause breast cancer in animals, many of which are commonly found in our homes. Some of the most widespread mammary gland carcinogens include 1,4-dioxane (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/03/carcinogens-in-baby-products.php)(found in detergents, shampoos, and soaps), perfluorooctanoic acid (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/01/poisonous_teflo.php)(used to manufacture Teflon), vinyl chloride (used to make PVC (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/11/thtv_sam_suds.php)), and atrazine (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/08/todays-toxin-atrazine.php) (a herbicide banned in Europe but widely used in the United States).
"The public health impacts of reducing exposures would be profound even if the true relative risks are modest," the researchers wrote. "If even a small percentage is due to preventable environmental factors, modifying these factors would spare thousands of women."