April 21, 2017 Leave a comment
Happy Earth Day! (It’s tomorrow. Time to make your Earth Day Resolution!
I hope you’ve already switched to greener cleaners and started drinking better milk, and now you’re ready for something new! There are many ways you could change your habits to reduce your environmental impact. Let’s talk about the stuff you use to clean and care for your body.
You might think that the Food & Drug Administration is responsible for making sure (in the United States) that any product marketed for putting on or in your body is safe. Unfortunately, that’s totally false. The FDA does no pre-market testing of personal hygiene products and does not require full disclosure of ingredients! (The term “cosmetics” used in that article does not mean just lipstick and nail polish; it includes more necessary products like shampoo, deodorant, and sunscreen.) Even when a product causes serious injury to consumers and the FDA does intervene, it’s not allowed to issue a recall (that’s a voluntary action by the manufacturer), and other products using the same dangerous ingredients can remain on the market. Cosmetic companies aren’t required to tell to the FDA if consumers report that a product hurt them.
This means that when you buy, say, baby wipes for your newborn, they can contain just about anything, and the package may not tell you what fibers are in that soft towelette or what chemicals are in that sweet-smelling liquid. The same is true of most personal hygiene products that don’t make enough medical claims to be classified as drugs.
Not only are your personal health and safety at risk, but many hygiene products also are bad for the environment. Some of the chemicals common in body wash, deodorant, moisturizers, makeup, perfume, and nail polish are known to cause cancer or disrupt hormone production in people or animals who don’t use them directly but consume water or air polluted with these chemicals from the user or from the factory. A common ingredient in sunscreen washes off swimmers and kills coral reefs. Here are 7 ingredients to avoid.
One of the most horrifying hazards found in hygiene products is microbeads, tiny pieces of plastic that increase the scrubbing effect of a facial cleanser or toothpaste. They are too small to be filtered out of water, which means that plastic microbeads accumulate in our oceans and in the bodies of fish, and we’re drinking them ourselves, with unknown effects. The environmental audit committee of the British parliament estimated that a person who eats six oysters has also eaten 50 particles of microplastics.
A great reference for checking the safety and environmental impact of your favorite products is the Environmental Working Group’s database. It’s not perfect–they’re excessively worried about many essential oils, in my opinion–but it gives you a lot of information to help make your decisions. If you’re curious about a product that’s not in the database but that lists its ingredients on the label, you can search the ingredients in the database.
My family has been moving toward safer, more natural, less Earth-destroying, affordable options in hygiene products for about 20 years now. Here’s what we recommend for many commonly-used types of products. Many of our favorites (as well as other green options we haven’t tried) are available from Grove Collaborative; click here for $10 off your first order! Read more of this post