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Protect Yourself From Harmful Chemicals in Cosmetics and Household Products
by Laura Costa, Ph.D.
Every day, women are exposed to chemicals in cosmetics, household cleaners, plastics, food, water and many other sources. Common household chemicals have been linked to more than 200 health problems including asthma, depression, anxiety, various cancers (including breast, ovarian and brain), birth defects and developmental disabilities, as well as reproductive, cardiovascular and immune system disorders. Many of these chemicals are stored in our bodies and accumulate over time to cause health problems after years of gradual exposure.
The bad news: women are exposed to a far greater number of harmful chemicals than men . In general, women use more personal care products (such as makeup, perfume, nail care and hair care products), do most of the household cleaning (still!), eat more foods with artificial sweeteners, handle more indoor pesticides (e.g., bug sprays), sprinkle more carpet freshener, and burn more scented candles than men. For these reasons, women are at higher risk for health problems due to long-term, low-level exposure to harmful household chemicals. Although women are at higher risk than men, the group with the highest risk of all is young children. The liver is the main organ that removes toxins from the body and until two years of age, babies' livers are underdeveloped and not fully capable of removing harmful chemicals from their bodies.
The good news: most household chemical exposure is preventable . By altering your practices, you can decrease exposure to household chemicals. By reducing your family's daily chemical exposure, you can reduce the chances of developing illnesses such as cancer, anxiety, respiratory problems, and even heart disease and stroke attributed to low-level exposure during a long period.
Reducing exposure is not as difficult as you may think. Once you learn about the safe, natural alternatives for the chemical-containing products in your home, it's simply a matter of learning which products and ingredients to choose and which to avoid. For personal care, cleaning products and pesticides, it means learning about the ingredients listed on the product labels. Here are some tips to help you do that.
In choosing cosmetics and household cleaners, AVOID or MINIMIZE the following:
For safer options/alternatives, look for:
Develop and pass legislation to protect women and girls
California passed the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005 (SB484) to call for additional oversight and protection in the cosmetics industry. Taking action is important because the FDA does not review cosmetic ingredients for their safety before they come to market, nor does it have the authority to recall hazardous products.
You can work to pass state legislation similar to the California bill that:
Host a "toxic conversation"
Invite activists and friends to a party and ask each one of them to bring along one or two of their favorite cosmetic products and one of the household cleaning products that they use most often. Read the product information labels and discuss "just what is in the make-up I am wearing" and "how harmful are these chemicals I use to clean my home anyway?"
To prepare for your party, gather information about new science related to chemicals in cosmetics and cleaning products:
Learn more about these topics
©2000 - 2011 National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation's Love Your Body Campaign