Sunday, 13 February 2011

Nasties and Where to Find Them

I spent possibly up to 10% of my life reading labels. Sad but true. Being a vegan means constant vigilance (to quote Mad Eye Moody) because the product that was animal free the last time you bought it may not be so now. This refers back to the Waitrose onion bhajis and pakora incident a few years back where they changed the recipe and added yoghurt. But for the most part if you eat whole foods like beans, grains, fruits and veggies you’ll be ok.

But there are other places in our lives that I am a voracious label reader. Ever since my teens I have been intensely worried about animal testing. I have always tried to buy, to the best of my knowledge, brands that were healthier and did not test on animals. I started noticing about 8-9 years ago that we both had lots of small niggling health issues. For Spiderman it was eczema and for me it was asthma--certain personal products we used caused us both to have a flair up. I started reading labels and discovered that half the time you can’t understand it anyway because it is all chemical gobbledy-gook. I started doing research as to what these polysyllable words meant and was deeply surprised. Even some “Health Food Shop” brands that didn’t test on animals were full of chemical nightmares. When I really started to look at what we used I was astounded at the chemical cocktail we were rubbing into our hair and skin on a daily basis. So now I have a small bunch of tried and true products that are as chemical free as they can be, don’t test on animals and contain no animal products.      

Things I avoid and why:
Petrochemicals. Anything that contains petroleum. Washing up liquid and liquid soaps are just some of the household products that contain it. Cosmetics and skin lotion are full of it. Baby oil is nothing but mineral oil. Ever read paraffinum liquidum on a label? Thats petroleum. Ever wonder why vaseline stinks like car exhaust? Its made from petroleum. Theres a clue in the name. Petroleum. The same stuff petrol is made from! The same fossil fuels that the world is whizzing through at an alarming rate to make more plastic, drive more cars, choke the planet to death with fumes --do you really want that on your skin??? No, me neither. And if you are still not convinced: mineral oil blocks your pores and does not let your skin breathe. It traps in toxins and hinders normal respiration by keeping oxygen out.

Paraben preservatives any product that contains water will eventually grow bacteria and therefore needs a preservative. Im not negating that. But parabens are oestrogen mimics that can really screw up your hormones and your body and can affect your reproductive organs. I read somewhere that a very large percent of women who had breast cancer had high levels of parabens in their breast tissue. Just saying. Another health issue is that parabens are absorbed directly into the blood stream rather than through the gastrointestinal tract. And there are multiple kinds--like methyl paraben and propyl paraben--but the clue is in the name. .Propyl paraben, has been shown to adversely affect male reproductive functions; at the daily intake level acceptable under EC law, it decreased sperm production. Avoid them at all costs.

Propylene Glycol is related to antifreeze. It appears in most shampoos and body washes because it is a wetting agent that opens your pores and lets the chemicals in. I am not a car and therefore do not need antifreeze.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) is a detergent, that is found in approximately 90% of commercial shampoos, including "no more tears" baby shampoos as well as toothpastes, bubble baths and shower gel as well as industrial cleansing chemicals such as engine degreasers.
 It makes stuff foamy. Like really foamy, but in reality it is a caustic cleanser that can cause irritation to the scalp, eyes and skin. A report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that concentrations as low as 0.5% could cause irritation.  And concentrations of 10-30% caused
 Skin corrosion
 Severe irritation
It also goes onto state that SLS was also linked with:
 Eye irritations and deformities in children
 Hormone imbalance
 Protein denaturing (disturbs the protein structure in our cells)
According to the Women's Environmental Network there is some evidence to suggest reproductive effects and damage to liver, lungs & immune system.
Check your shampoo, body wash and toothpaste--do you really want to be rubbing that through your skin (the largest organ in the body?)

MEA and TEA Work as an emollient in skin softening lotions or as a humectant in other personal care products. These combine with other ingredients such and form carcinogens such as formaldehyde. Look at your shampoo bottle. I bet they are in there. Do you really want to wash carcinogens so close to your brain? Didnt think so.

 Coal tars are often used as a colouring agent but they are also a known carcinogen. Check your make up. Does it say something like Red # 40? Thats coal tar. Speaking of which, many brands of red lipstick have been found to be contaminated with lead. Considering that the average woman eats XX pounds of lipstick in her lifetime that doesn’t sound all that appetising. I’d like to order a plate of cancer please with a side of lead. Thank you very much.

Talc Talc is white and is mined from the earth. Talc deposits are often next to asbestos deposits underground. Asbestos is also white. Then it becomes a case of you got your talc in my asbestos and No you got your asbestos in my talc and no one wants that.

I have found that sometimes the simplest products are the best. We still buy shampoo--I buy Avalon Organics which is so mild it hardly foams because it doesn’t contain 27 industrial strength foaming agents. But don’t be fooled--lather does not equal clean. But I wash my face with sunflower oil and rosewater. I use coconut butter as a body lotion and as an ingredient in my deodorant called Goat-Be-Gone. We buy foam free fluoride free toothpaste. Because fluoride is a toxin that is a by product of the fertilizer industry. It is illegal to dump fluoride in rivers because it kills fish so why would I want that in my mouth?? But that’s for another post.

Look in your bathroom and see what dangers lurk there. What can you get rid of? I don’t think that’s what Emily Dickinson meant in her poem I Died For Beauty, do you?

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