Restocking your bathroom may save your life.

poisonTo most of you it probably doesn’t come as a surprise: the food industry giants put anything in your food, as long as it makes them money. It’s empowering to see that more and more people realize this, and shift towards a diet based on natural, unprocessed whole foods. And although your health might probably improve dramatically after making this transition, you are still exposed to the other health hazards of modern life. Take your bathroom, for instance. Most likely it is stocked with toiletries that are equally dangerous as junk food. Many chemicals that are commonly used in soaps, shampoos, creams and other toiletries, are suspected of causing problems such as cancer, a disrupted hormone balance, asthma or fertility problems. Although millions of years of evolution made us well adapted to deal with most natural afflictions, our bodies are not ‘designed’ to deal with the chemicals in your personal care products. These are substances we were never exposed to in history. The problem is, we got so used to our bathroom rituals, that we’re not even realizing we are covering ourselves in chemicals. Day after day. But there is hope. An increasing number of manufacturers sell toiletries that are safe. In my search for better alternatives, I stumbled upon two great apps that help you to identify whether your own bathroom products are hazardous or not. And if they are, the apps can help you finding safe alternatives.

The GoodGuide app is available for both Apple and Android and reviews over 250.000 products. It enables consumers to make purchasing decisions by rating products on a 0 – 1o scale for their impact on health, environment and social impact. The product database of GoodGuide isn’t limited to personal care products, but also includes categories such as pet food, kids and household. The app includes a pretty cool bar code scanner, that allows you to instantly retrieve product ratings while you shop. Subsequently, a list of your product’s ingredients can be opened. Potentially hazardous ingredients are indicated by a letter (L= low health concern, M= medium health concern, H= high health concern, ?= controversial ingredient). Further¬† information about potential health concerns can be obtained by tapping the ingredient. For example, tapping an indicated ingredient shows that it is ‘suspected of causing immunotoxicity‘. Good Guide was founded by Dara O’Rourke, an environmental scientist, information scientist, and professor at the University of Califonia, Berkeley. According to the GoodGuide website, data is obtained from over 1000 different sources including scientific institutions, governmental agencies, commercial data aggregators, non-governmental organizations, media outlets and corporations. People without a smartphone that want access to the Good Guide database can use the website instead: go to www.goodguide.com.

Another great app I’d like to mention is SkinDeep, that focuses exclusively on the safety of personal care products. It’s available for both Apple and Andriod and just like the GoodGuide app, products can be accessed by either performing a search, or by using the bar code scanner. It has an extensive database consisting of more than 69.000 (!) products. For each product it shows if there is a low, moderate or high health concern within the categories ‘cancer’, ‘developmental/ reproductivity’ and ‘allergy’. Each ingredient comes with a health risk score on a 0 -10 scale.¬† The SkinDeep app is developed by the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. The SkinDeep database can also be accessed through the EWG website which is, by the way, very worth paying a visit to!

So, after I installed both apps myself, I decided to put a few of our own personal care products to the test: my eau de toilette and shaving gel, as well as my girlfriend’s shampoo. Note: quite a few products in my bathroom were not recognized by the apps, as they are probably sold in Europe only. If you happen to be American, the apps probably cover most available products, and the barcode scanner is of better use.

First, my eau de toilette. The GoodGuide safety score is an impressive ‘0’, with 3 ingredients being of low health concern, 1 ingredient of medium concern (propylene glycol) and 1 ingredient of high concern (benzophenone-2). Propylene is suspected of causing immunotoxicity, respiratory toxicity and skin or sense organ toxicity. Benzophenone-2 ‘meets the criteria used to identify Substance of Very High Concern in the European Union’s REACH program and is being prioritized for replacement by safer alternatives.’ According to the EWG website, benzophenone-2 is highly suspected of causing endocrine disruption. Nice. I decided to look up the eau de toilette in the SkinDeep app as well, where it scores an ‘8’ for unsafety. One ingredient of high concern is fragrance, 5 ingredients are of moderate concern and 3 are of little or no concern. My very popular eau de toilette definitely seems to be a potential health hazard.

Then the ladies’ shampoo. It scores a pretty bad ‘4’ on safety, according to the GoodGuide app. Surprisingly, it doesn’t contain ingredients that are of high health concern, but it contains a cocktail of 8 ingredients that are desperately of ‘low’ health concern because of a variety of reasons: skin irritation, restriction for use in cosmetics in Canada and/or Japan, asthma, immunotoxicity, skin or sense organ toxicity and respiratory toxicity. In the SkinDeep app, the shampoo scores a ‘5’ for unsafety. Fragrance is identified as a high risk ingredient, 9 ingredients are of moderate health concern and 13 are of little or no concern.

Finally, my shaving gel. A ‘2’ for health in the GoodGuide app, with 3 ingredients being of medium health concern (suspected of causing immunotoxicity, respiratory toxicity, skin or sense organ toxicity and asthma), and one of low concern. The gel scores a ‘5’ for unsafety in the SkinDeep app, with 2 high hazard ingredients (BHT, fragrance), 5 moderate hazard ingredients and 9 ingredients of little or no concern.

Conclusion: my randomly chosen bathroom products turn out to be pretty unsafe! I bet yours are too. Keep in mind that interaction effects between individual chemical components are mostly unknown. My guess is that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. I recommend everybody to install both apps on their smartphone. They are free, and could keep you and your family out of trouble!

Categories: Evolution, Health

2 Comments

  • Sibyl says:

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  • An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers

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