It is the last place would expect to find a trove of toxic chemicals, but the first place you should clear out if you want to make your home safer is your bathroom cabinet. It is hard to believe, but the fact is that many of the products we use every day are filled with chemicals that would make your skin crawl if you actually knew that they were there.
Cosmetic companies and the big industry groups insist that everything they sell is completely safe, but some scientists and environmentalists have warned that many of these products contain chemicals that have been linked with all sorts of diseases and health problems.
What is more, is that very little research has been done on how these chemicals act on the body when they are combined. Individually many have been shown to be harmful. When they are put together that harm may be multiplied by many times in ways that we just don’t understand yet.
What makes it especially alarming is that these are products that we put in our mouths, rub on our skins, spray on our hair and use on our children and, unwittingly, on our unborn babies.
What are some of the chemicals to look out for?
Britain’s Guardian Newspaper ran a special report a few years ago that listed some of the most dangerous chemicals that are found in everyday cosmetics. These included:
- Phthalates: which some studies have found may disrupt the hormonal system, reduce female fertility and interfere with the development of both growing girls and boys.
- Parabens: these are a common preservative found in many cosmetics that some scientists have linked with breast cancer. They also interfere with the body’s hormone system.
- Formaldehyde: this is the substance that is used to preserve laboratory specimens. Think of a frog in a jar and you have the right substance. Now think of that substance in your deodorant, shampoo or hand wash and whether you think it is, on balance, good or bad for you.
Some of these substances are not just found in adult products but also ones for babies and children. According the The Guardian, baby wipes contain parabens and propylene glycol while common brands of shampoo for babies contain Sodium laureth sulphate, which can irritate the skin. You can also read more about many of the chemicals found in the home in a study doneby Greenpeace called The Chemical Home.
How to make your bathroom cabinet safer
Go through your bathroom cabinet carefully and see what products you can do without. You’d be surprised at how many you don’t actually need. To try to cut down my exposure to some sorts of chemicals I’ve switched from wet shaving with shaving cream to using an electric razor. It takes half the time, still leaves me smooth and means I am using one less chemical product a day. Moreover, I’m not filling the trash cash with empty cans of shaving cream every few weeks.
Inspect the labels
Look at the labels of the products you use. If they have harmful chemicals try to get rid of them and look for substitutes. The best would be to go for things like organic shampoo and organic toothpaste that contain none of the nasty chemicals. Fortunately the range of organic products now available has increased hugely in recent years and now includes organic facecream and organic sunscreen. But if you can’t find organic alternatives at least look for mainstream products that contain fewer bad chemicals. Make checking the labels a habit. Some products that are labelled as organic still have some bad things in them, so don’t just read the front of the label but turn it around and look at the back too. The long lists of ingredients can be intimidating, so a good rule of thumb is to look for products with shorter lists. Our grandparents seemed to do just fine with cosmetics that were based on just a few simple ingredients, there seems no reason why we shouldn’t too.