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If you’ve ever read the ingredients of anything you use on your body-shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, moisturizer, shaving cream-you’ve probably felt like you need to be a chemist to understand the list.  And you’ve probably wondered whether all chemicals in skin care products are safe.  Skepticism over the safety of a variety of things commonly used, including formaldehyde, formaldehyde releasers, parabens, dioxane, phthalates and triclosan has led to increase scrutiny.  And because of this, some of the things previously deemed “safe” are now being removed from the market or very heavily investigated:

Formaldehyde

This is used as a preservative.  Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers including quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol) are added to products because they inhibit bacterial growth and give products a longer life.  Formaldehyde is perfectly natural and is found in food.  But it has also been found to be carcinogenic.  The same is probably true of the formaldehyde releasers.

Triclosan

This is the most common antibacterial agent in antibacterial soaps.

Triclosan is now under scrutiny because of studies that show it poisons muscle and messes up the growth of Pacific Tree Frogs.   Since 450 tons of it are used in the US each year, it should be no surprise that it can be detected in human urine and is becoming a major wastewater contaminant.

Safety

Interestingly, as these safety concerns have mounted, several big companies have come out with plans to eliminate them.  Last year Johnson and Johnson, who i’m sure makes about 1/3 of the products in the personal care section of any store, announced plans to remove a variety of concerning chemical from their baby lines by the end of 2013 and then their adult products by 2015.  Other companies like Neutrogena have developed new lines or lines of all-natural products that avoid some of these chemicals as well.

I think the days of adding all kinds of extra chemicals to products are behind us, at least for products made in the US, Japan, and Europe.  I expect that this is only the beginning of efforts to remove many of these things from the marketplace.  For now, however, the increased scrutiny that baby products get means that many times products meant for babies are the safest for all of us.

 

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