Monday, April 07, 2008
Bursting the Bubble: The Myth of the "Natural" Surfactant
These days, it seems that everybody wants organic. Because of the dramatic rise in consumer interest in everything organic, manufacturers from all walks of industry are rushing to fill the marketplace with goods labeled as "organic." Unfortunately, whether the products are actually genuine USDA National Organic Program (NOP) certified organic products has not been a primary focus of the businesses seeking to profit from the explosive interest in organic products. The unspoken code within the natural products industry has been "don't ask don't tell".
Understanding the rules for organics is actually quite simple. First, grow and harvest organic botanicals and animals without the use of chemical inputs -- pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, irradiation, defoliants, etc., in accordance with sustainable, humane and environmentally-friendly principles. Second, minimally-process your certified organic materials using traditional and simple processing methods, not extreme industrial manufacturing technologies or synthetic and toxic petrochemicals.
Everyone can understand organic carrots -- preparing the soil, planting seeds, watering, weeding, digging carrots out of the ground and eating them. Most folks can also understand what it takes to raise organic dairy cows and label milk as organic. But what about "organic" shampoo? How can one call a conventional foaming surfactant (detergent) product "organic"?? Well...technically, you cannot call a synthetic chemical detergent "organic". But stores and internet companies are flooded with "organic" shampoos, so what's going on?
One major facet of this problematic issue is that the USDA National Organic Program's office has announced that they are just nine people and have approximately $1 million dollars to police the organic industry and the use of the word "organic" in a rapidly growing marketplace that is currently estimated at more than $20 billion dollars. It's too bad that the NOP was so forthcoming with the information about this unfortunate combination of circumstance and lack of funding. Consequently, there has been very little enforcement in the organic foods sector of the natural products industry, and none at all in the personal care products arena. Personal care manufacturers have duly noted and celebrated the NOP's limited resources and are moving quickly to exploit the lucrative "organic" marketplace opportunities at the expense of trusting, organically-minded consumers. This has resulted in numerous mysterious ingredients -- frequently synthetic oleochemicals -- in so-called "organic" products.
Oleochemicals are synthetic man-made industrial chemicals typically manufactured or "derived from" conventionally-grown, third-world vegetable oils -- a.k.a. oleo feedstocks. (From Wikipedia: Oleochemicals are chemicals derived from biological oils or fats. They are analogous to petrochemicals which are chemicals derived from petroleum. ) Well, if the ingredients are "derived from" vegetable oil sources they must be environmentally-friendly and safe, right? Unfortunately, not. Firstly, consider that the vast majority of vegetable feedstocks are conventionally-grown (not organic!) in third-world countries. Conventionally-grown, third-world vegetable oils are frequently contaminated with synthetic pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer chemical residues, including chemicals that have been banned for use in the USA. Secondly, the processes used to convert vegetable feedstocks into the various synthetic oleochemicals are polluting industrial processes that too often involve violent reactions and highly toxic petrochemical agents and heavy metal catalysts. Thirdly, transporting conventional feedstocks from third-world countries requires significant fossil fuel. Lastly, though the oleochemicals may be derived from a vegetable source, the final new synthetic material does not have the same molecular structure as the original oil and, too frequently, as the new synthetic never existed in nature, can have unknown and potentially hazardous consequences/effects on humans, wildlife and our environment downstream.
So what are those mysterious coconut oil- or palm oil-derived surfactants? Surprise -- they're synthetic oleochemical detergents! What are vegetable emulsifying wax, fatty acids -- cetyl or cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate, caprylic/capric triglycerides, stearic acid, etc.? These materials are all synthetic oleochemicals used as emollients, emulsifiers and thickeners. All of these are ingredients are frequently seen on the "natural" and "organic" personal care product ingredient listings of the products sold in the healthy, natural, organic and good-for-you grocery stores and on web sites. The problem is that these ingredients are not really natural nor organic! Another, bigger problem is that many of the surfactants and fatty acids may have toxic catalyst residues or toxic contaminants -- by-products -- from their industrial manufacturing processes. For a new study documenting this problem in common personal care products sold in the natural products industry, take a look at this shocking news story:
Isn't it odd that though you frequently see coconut-derived surfactants, fatty acids, vegetable emulsifying wax or caprylic/capric triglycerides in "all natural" and "organic" personal care products, you never see them in USDA certified organic food products? The reason that you would never see these ingredients in authentic certified organic foods is because they are not natural. In addition, because they are synthetic industrial oleochemicals whose manufacturing processes are unnatural and/or extreme -- environmentally-unfriendly processes -- they can never be certified as organic under the USDA National Organic Program regulations. The polluting manufacturing processes used to produce surfactants and fatty acids involve the use of strong chemical acids and other toxic reactive agents, or employ heavy metals or chemically-engineered industrial enzymes or petrochemical catalysts that do not meet the USDA organic program regulations.
For example, many folks avoid hydrogenated fats because they understand that hydrogenated fats contain trans fats and are unhealthy because they are understood to cause free radical formation and prostaglandin inhibition. Hydrogenated fats are not permitted in certified organic products because they are industrially-created and chemically-reacted in environmentally-unfriendly processes that render oils into unhealthy synthetic waxy materials. Another concern is that hydrogenated fats, fatty acids and emulsifying waxes or surfactants may have petrochemical, synthetic enzyme or metal catalyst residues in the final product. Most people would be surprised to learn that the ingredients -- vegetable emulsifying wax (a.k.a. soy wax), coconut fatty acids, cetyl alcohol and jojoba butter/beads -- that are frequently used in "all natural" and even "organic" personal care products are hydrogenated synthetically-reacted materials. These hydrogenated fats are synthetic waxy substances with consistencies ranging from soft and creamy to a firm wax. Most of the oleochemical emollient fatty acids used in personal care products are virtually indistinguishable from ordinary shortening. Manufacturers love these synthetic fatty acids because they have a long shelf-life and they have a distinctive waxy, not oily feel. Also, as they are synthetic, the oleochemical emollient substances offer consistency in viscosity and texture, unlike truly natural botanicals that have wide variations in color, smell, viscosity and texture due to rainfall, soil conditions, harvest time, etc.
There are many different industrial processing methods for manufacturing oleochemicals, yet some of the processes used to make surfactants and fatty acids and emulsifying waxes are similar in many ways. These conventional oleochemicals require the use of a multi-million dollar industrial processing unit called a “reactor,” and vegetable oil feedstocks (conventional, third-world-grown). Many folks associate the word reactor with a nuclear reactor, which is designed to split atoms. Indeed, oleochemical reactors are very similar in that they also utilize extreme heat and pressure to split molecules. A typical reactor utilizes extreme pressure -- up to 1800 p.s.i. -- and heats the oil to temperatures in excess of one thousand degrees, and often much higher, for up to 24 hours; thus, requiring substantial inputs of coal and oil fossil fuels. It may surprise one to learn that this temperature and pressure range is nearly identical to the conditions found in the core of a nuclear reactor. Environmentally-conscious individuals will be disturbed to learn that the detergent industry's large consumption of coal as a primary heat source for their reactive processes is one of the top sources of mercury contamination of our environment.
Oleochemical manufacturers seeking to increase profits are abandoning the older fixed bed reactors in favor of new technology -- fluidized bed reactors. Fluidized bed reactors frequently use nanoparticle (controversial, unnaturally-engineered microscopic particles of various materials) heavy metals in the reaction process. This new trend allows for a speedier reaction and processing time because the use of heavy metal nanoparticles (zinc-chromite, for example) in the fluidized bed reactor provides dramatically more catalyst surface area for the reaction of oil feedstocks than do fixed bed reactors. In the fluidized-bed oleochemical reactors, the hot oils are mixed with the heavy metal nanoparticles or engineered enzyme or para-toluene sulfonic acid (PTSA) catalysts in a fluid (moving) slurry. Other toxic strong acid reactive agents, such as sulfuric acid or ethylene oxide or sodium methoxide, may be added to the reactor, then the combination of the catalyst, reactive agent and feedstock oil under high temperature and pressure results in a potent reaction that splits -- cracks -- the molecules of the conventional vegetable oil (splitting off the healthy and delicate oil fraction) and changes it into a new synthetic substance that does not occur naturally in nature. Many different types of oleochemicals can be created when different catalysts, reactive agents and feedstocks are combined at various temperatures and pressure and processing times.
Though there may be residues of the nano-metal catalyst (or synthetic engineered enzyme or petrochemical residues) in the final product, there are few nanotoxicology studies that have examined the effects of nanomaterials in organisms and environments. Frighteningly, the minimal nano research done so far raises strong concerns about the safety of nanomaterials. Leading environmental scientists are now speaking out about the potential for widespread toxic effects of engineered nanoparticles on humans, wildlife and our environment. Take a look at this interesting visual that depicts the scale of nanoparticles (Courtesy of the US EPA web site.).
To learn more about nanoparticles -- how they are used in personal care products, their harmful effects and why you should avoid them -- scroll down this page to our post from Monday, June 14, 2004 and read the article titled "Sunscreens, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide and Color Cosmetics."
We now know that the surfactants, fatty acids, fatty alcohols, trigylcerides and emulsifying waxes and "beads" are synthetic ingredients and not certified organic. How "healthy" is a synthetic ingredient manufactured under such extreme industrial conditions? Why do personal care product companies that claim to be "natural" and "organic" use such unnatural ingredients? There are three very important reasons. First, these ingredients are common, conventional and cheap. Second, they are fractionated/hydrogenated synthetics so their shelf-life is, essentially, indefinite. Third, no one is policing "organic" or "natural" or "synthetic-free" label claims, so using the word organic (or natural) on conventional product labels and advertising is a strategic ploy that provides an excellent opportunity to exploit the consumer's trust in the organic certification process and the word "organic," and guarantees manufacturers greatly increased profits. This makes the use of oleochemicals a particularly profitable idea for companies that manufacture in very large quantities or manufacture overseas and use ocean transport to ship goods via long ocean voyages with stops in multiple ports to warehouse distribution centers around the world.
As a cost-cutting measure to increase profits, many personal care products are now made in foreign and third-world countries where labor and materials are cheaper. In addition, a company's cost savings are greater if they aren't required to comply with costly industrial manufacturing environmental safeguards and regulations and, conveniently, environmental regulations for polluting oleochemical industrial factories in the foreign third-world countries are very weak, if they even exist at all. Currently, the personal care marketplace is flooded with lower quality, mass-produced non-certified "organic" and "all natural" personal care products that are shipped from third-world countries across the oceans in non-temperature controlled metal containers where they are exposed to widely varying temperature extremes for a multi-month voyage to the US. At the port of entry, products may be held in unheated and humid warehouses for 30-90 days awaiting customs clearance, and then are shipped in tractor trailers, without air conditioning or heating, across the country to regional non-temperature controlled warehouses where the products may sit for months to a year or more before they even reach the local retailer's store. Transport and storage conditions like this subject products to very extreme temperatures and long delays. Personal care products that are not certified organic are obviously made from significantly cheaper and lower quality raw materials, and have usually undergone extreme handling conditions. Thus, conventional personal care product manufacturers have a need to use synthetic waxes and oils, and add strong, toxic preservatives to stabilize their products until they can be sold for a profit. Many people would be surprised to learn that their "all natural" and "organic" personal care products are not really organic and not fresh at all -- in fact, the "all natural" and "organic" products that they buy may be two to three years old, or even older.
It is unfortunate that the vast majority of personal care product ingredients are synthetic and their manufacturing processes so harsh and complex. It's unfortunate also that few consumers have the technical background to be able to identify chemical ingredients used in personal care products or the time to study the complicated industrial manufacturing methods and origins of the chemicals that are used to manufacture their "organic" shampoos, conditioners, lotions, "soaps" and color cosmetics. To further complicate the situation, an unfortunate and misguided FDA soap labeling regulation confuses consumers even further. The FDA soap labeling ruling permits manufacturers of synthetic detergents to call their chemical products "soap" in competition with traditionally-made and truly environmentally-friendly castile soaps. As if this identification issue isn't problematic enough, the FDA has no requirement for bar soaps or household cleaning products to list any ingredients on their labels. Buyer beware when it comes to bar soaps and household cleaners!
Manufacturers and retailers are exploiting the trust of environmentally-conscious, organic-minded consumers and charging premium prices for oleochemical and petrochemical "organic"-labeled products. Too many of these faux-organic personal care products are essentially the same as conventional drug and discount store personal care products.
The personal care products industry needs to be more responsible and invest some of their bountiful profits in new and truly environmentally-sustainable innovative technologies, and long-term safety studies. Our US consumer protection and environmental laws must be updated...now. We desperately need more visionary laws like the new regulations in the European Union that require that any new personal care product chemical ingredient that is manufactured must be proven safe before it can be used in products and sold to consumers in the marketplace. In other words, a synthetic chemical is considered guilty -- potentially toxic -- until it is proven otherwise. Conversely, at present in the US, contrary to what most consumers believe, any chemical manufacturer can create a new compound and use it in consumer products that are introduced into the marketplace without any guarantee of long-term safety. In the US, synthetic chemicals are considered innocent until the government is forced to commit millions of dollars and many years of study to prove just one chemical guilty!
This current situation in the "natural" personal care products industry is outrageous and wrong. It's time to burst the "organic" shampoo bubbles. We need to halt the misinformation campaign that seeks to destroy the integrity of the word organic and threatens the livelihood of legitimate certified organic farms and businesses. We must share the truth about synthetic personal care products with our families and friends so they will have more accurate information about personal care product ingredients and the health and environmental implications that result from the manufacturing of the chemical ingredients, their use and disposal. We believe that intelligent and caring individuals, when truthfully informed, will make better choices -- will demand genuine, USDA third-party certified organic products. We all need to have the word "organic" mean what our USDA National Organic Program law has declared that it should be, since 2002.
What can you do to be sure that you are getting genuine USDA certified organic personal care products? What products should you buy for yourself and your family? At this time, the only products that you can trust are those personal care products that bear the distinctive USDA seal on the front label of each individual product. The USDA organic seal placement on the FRONT label of a product is the consumer's only assurance that products have been genuinely certified by a third-party government-accredited certifier and have had their ingredients and processing independently verified to be in compliance with the USDA National Organic Program, the most strict organic standard in the world. Here's a link to more information about the USDA organic labeling rules:
When searching for genuine USDA certified organic products, remember: If it doesn't have the seal, it ain't the real deal!
Sunday, July 04, 2004
Chemical Preservatives in Body Care Products Release Formaldehyde a Known Carcinogen!
Read your "natural" and "organic" body care product ingredient labels to see if they contain any of the following toxic chemicals: imidazolidinyl or imadazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethyl glycinate or hydroxymethyl glycinate or benzylhemiformal.
In response to negative publicity surrounding new scientific evidence of the endocrine disruption potential of the paraben family of preservatives (methyl, butyl, propyl) parabens and the new UK report announcing the discovery of parabens in breast cancer tumors, many slick chemical manufacturers have been quietly removing parabens from their ingredient panels and replacing them with other toxic chemical preservatives. This is a common maneuvering trick in the personal care and household products industries. When too much negative press appears about one particular chemical, many companies switch to different chemicals and then (now, here's the tricky part) begin to advertise that their products are "paraben-free" or "sodium lauryl sulfate-free" or "propylene glycol-free," etc., for example. Consumers think, Wow! - I've found a healthy product.
The chemicals imidazolidinyl or imadazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethyl glycinate and benzylhemiformal have been identified as releasing formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, by the European Union Working Party's (WP) Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food Products in their Methods of Chemical Analysis of Cosmetic Products report.
According to the National Institutes of Health's "Household Products Database," (sodium) hydroxymethyl glycinate is also known as: N-(Hydroxymethyl)glycine, monosodium salt; Glycine, N-(hydroxymethyl)-, monosodium salt or Sodium N-(hydroxymethyl)glycinate. The NIH could not locate any health studies for sodium hydroxymethyl glycinate.
Just days ago, the World Health Organization confirmed the carcinogenicity of formaledhyde. Read the report.
Here is the link from the European Union identifying the chemical preservatives as formaldehyde donors/releasers: Read the report.
Monday, June 14, 2004
Sunscreens, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide and Color Cosmetics
We have spent fifteen years and countless hours doing environmental, cancer and cosmetic research and have made a good bit of it available to everyone on our web site. It is interesting to us that very few companies do the research that we do, with the quality of links and references that we provide. Fact is, what we see most often is a lot of hype, and sites representing misinformation and touting synthetic ingredients as "all natural" even "organic."
Despite having federal regulations in place for organic food, the USDA has, thus far, declined to step in and regulate the use of the word "organic" for body care items. We met with Richard Mathews, the director of the National Organic Program, over a year ago and pleaded with him to take action to regulate companies that represent bottles full of chemicals as "organic." It seems that our company was the only personal care products company to meet with him and ask for strict regulation of body care products that use the word "organic." Apparently, we are outnumbered by chemical companies not wanting to be regulated--companies who want to call any synthetic chemical "organic," even "certified organic."
We have been members of the Organic Trade Association's Personal Care Task Force for the past two years and we are frustrated by how we always seem to be the lone voice speaking out against the use of chemical detergents, oleochemical emollients and chemical preservatives being used in products labeled "organic." We are also disturbed by the fact that we are even discussing synthetic chemicals in the first place as we believe that synthetic oleochemicals, petrochemicals and reactive materials and/or nanoparticles like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have no business being in products that are labeled "organic."
So, though the USDA is not regulating the word "organic" for body care products right now, we see this as a temporary situation as we plan to continue to work within the industry, with the Organic Consumers Association and through Capitol Hill to have body care products exceed or, at minimum, meet the standards for foods WITHOUT tweaking and twisting the rules or the original intent of the organic philosophy. We will also continue to educate our friends and customers so that they will feel empowered to join with us in our campaign to save organic from being diluted and devalued by chemical interests.
Fortunately, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) federal regulation has provided us with some excellent ammunition for our battle. The NOP contains, what appears to be, the first legal definitions of the words "synthetic" and "nonsynthetic." These crystal clear definitions are, perhaps, the most important aspect of the organic regulations.
So, first, let's just clear up this "natural" thing once and for all. Following are the definitions from the USDA NOP site: (a reputable source)
Nonsynthetic (natural). A substance that is derived from mineral, plant, or animal matter and DOES NOT undergo a synthetic process as defined in section 6502(21) of the Act (7 U.S.C. 6502(21)). For the purposes of this part, nonsynthetic is used as a synonym for natural as the term is used in the Act.
Synthetic. A substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that CHEMICALLY CHANGES a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral sources, except that such term shall not apply to substances created by naturally occurring biological processes.
Click here to go to NOP Standards
It is very important for all to note that, while we could make a "sunscreen" product and cash in, we aren't doing that. In fact, we had a well-known client, for whom "money was no object," who hired us to make a sunscreen and, after researching the currently available materials for nearly eighteen months, we declined to continue with the project. It could have been a lucrative opportunity for us, but we knew that we could not make a sunscreen product in good conscience. Everyone knows how troubled the public is over this issue and, frankly, it would be very easy to take advantage of people who are confused and worried about cancer. We are not willing to take chances on potentially biased sunscreen chemical data provided by the manufacturers of such products (particularly since we continue to find increasing numbers of contradictory studies from reputable sources). To us this is the fox guarding the henhouse. It is also a well-known fact that "medical" studies can be designed to produce the results that someone decided they wanted to see. It is our opinion that it is very important to determine who is doing the "study," why they are doing it, who is paying for the study and if they are also buying advertising in the journal that publishes the study. In addition, our conscience does not permit us to expose others to potential risks that we would be unwilling to take ourselves.
Folks often ask how we protect ourselves against the sun and we have always shared our rational and practical opinion which is this: avoid the sun during the peak hours of the day and, if one must venture out, one should wear a large hat, sunglasses and tightly woven, loose fitting cotton (organic would be great) clothing, preferably light blue in color (hopefully dyed with a botanical dye and an environmentally friendly mordant) as a light blue color has been said to reflect the most UV rays. It is also our opinion that one should venture out for five to ten minutes at least once or twice every day, if only to get away from the computer screen and stretch the legs, even if it's raining.
We really dislike spending our ever-so-limited time getting involved in debates about synthetic ingredients like nanoparticulate titanium dioxide (TiO2) with those who would profit from making and selling them. [ "Though the market for nanoparticles will approach one billion dollars next year..." See the ETC Group's full article] We prefer to spend our time in meaningful discourse with folks who are interested in our broad and alternative ecological vision...yet, here we are writing about synthetics. Oh, how we wish we could be sleeping or gardening instead! Our dream is to change the way that people think and to get them to think outside the conventional box of "well, we do it this way because that's the way that everybody else does it" or "well, that's the way that it's always been done." We think that it would be great if we could get folks to explore new and innovative uses for renewable and certified organic materials as alternatives to synthetic products.
We hope that with our research, we can also help to raise awareness about ingredients that are environmentally UNfriendly in their manufacture (in our opinion, environmentally Unfriendly means harmful to humans and wildlife) and that may have a question as to their safety.
Following are two quotes from and a link to a very well-written web site from a reputable supplier of pigments that outlines chemical manufacturing techniques of titanium dioxide:
"The feedstock for the chloride process is a mineral rutile or synthetic beneficiates containing over 90 percent TiO2. A suitable ore blend is mixed with a source of carbon and the two are reacted in a fluidized bed with CHLORINE at approximately 900°C. (1650 degrees!) The reaction yields titanium tetrachloride, TiCl4, and the chlorides of all the impurities present."
"...to ensure efficient sulfation by agitation with concentrated SULFURIC ACID...."
"The pulp is then separated from the mother liquor and extensively washed to remove residual traces of metallic impurities, using CHELATING AGENTS if necessary. The washed pulp is TREATED WITH CHEMICALS which adjust the physical texture..."
Click here to got to Titanium Dioxide Link
"whilst TiO2 may improve the durability of an organic binder (paint or plastic) by adsorbing ultra-violet radiation, free radicals are produced at its surface which leads to photocatalytic breakdown."
Find the quote from above here:
Click for TiO2 photocatalytic info
Our opinion about the vast majority of synthetics is to avoid them as much as possible. As we uncover more information, it is always possible that our opinions may change or our convictions may become stronger. Whatever the future brings, we hope that we will always remain open to change, to enlightenment, as we do believe in kaizen (constant improvement).
Having cancer can be a funny thing--it can make you into an extremely cautious person and give you a new perspective on life. Cancer made me realize that I love my life, my partner, my cats, my friends and my garden and that I need to do everything that I can to have as much time as possible to be with my loves. Do I garden in the bright sunlight or in the peak hours of the day? No. I learned to adjust my life schedule so that I can have my pleasures, but without exposing myself to too many unnecessary risks. Was this a hardship or an extremely difficult thing to do? Absolutely not!
Working in the garden on our farm, as the sun comes up over the mountain with the mist rising up from the little river in the valley, is one of the most zen moments of this beautiful life. I heartily recommend that everyone try gardening at sunrise, at least once. Alternatively, I find immense satisfaction to be had in weeding in the cooler hours of the late afternoon and early evening as our bees are returning to their hive. The perfume of the valerian and the lilies are at their greatest intensity in the evening and the sunsets can inspire one to great poetic depths.
Vacationing at the beach in these enlightened times, the year 2004, and baking oneself during peak hours of the day is, in my opinion, irresponsible and completely avoidable. To continue to expose oneself to these conditions in our environmentally troubled days with our damaged ozone is, in my opinion, old-fashioned and unscientific and a gamble not worth taking. I also don't think that it's fair to me, other cautious people and wildlife that unthinking or uncaring humans take these risks and experiment with questionable sunscreen chemicals at the water's edge and wash them off their bodies and into our waterways. We have one planet and all of our water is linked to all of the water around the world. We all have to share the water that we have on this planet and I sincerely wish that more people would become considerate of our concerns about our tainted waterways.
"Nano's Troubled Waters: Latest toxic warning shows NANOPARTICLES cause BRAIN DAMAGE in aquatic species and highlights need for a moratorium on the release of new nanomaterials"
Click here for Nanoparticle Brain Damage link
Governments around the world have found sunscreen chemicals in bodies of fresh and salt water AND these chemicals have been found in the bodies of fish that humans and other animals consume. Sunscreen chemicals have even been found in human breast milk. Our own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and progressive scientists from around the globe have established the estrogenic potential of many of these chemicals. Endocrine disruptors can lead to cancer. Cancers overwhelm and threaten to bankrupt our over-burdened "health" care system. Don't we have enough crises already?
We recommend the book "Sunscreen Photobiology, Molecular, Cellular and Physiological Aspects" for folks who would like more technical information on the technical aspects of sunscreens. This volume, however, is not the only source supporting the technical info related to the instability of titanium dioxide AND zinc oxide. Here is a statement from a reputable cosmetic industry trade journal:
"Titanium dioxide AND zinc oxide are commonly used in drug and cosmetic products. Contrary to belief, Sayre and co-workers (Cosmetics & Toileteries Oct. 2000, 75) have shown that these physical sunscreens are not photochemically inactive. Although adequate coating can reduce the risk, an increase in the destruction of photolabile skin lipids is not desirable. The photo-peroxidation of unsaturated skin lipids may result in perturbation of the lipid environment of viable cell layers and degrade skin surface lipids. "
The Washington Post (a reputable source) reports on current scientific concerns about TiO2 NANOPARTICLES:
"Titanium dioxide, for example, is a generally nonreactive substance used in many products, including skin lotions and house paints. Increasingly, however, it is being made in the form of nano-size particles. And tests show that they are HIGHLY REACTIVE, generating chemically "hot" free radicals that can literally burn up bacteria. That has some experts worrying about impacts on soil ecology if the particles are released."
"Some sunscreens have ultraviolet-absorbing nanoparticles so small they cannot reflect light, making them invisible."
The Post nanotech link:
Click here for the Post article
"One thing we've concluded is whatever these things [NANOMATERIALS] are going to do, they're NOT INERT. What will they do when they get in the environment, and what will they do when they GET INTO PEOPLE?" 2. Dr. Vicki Colvin, professor and co-director of the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, Rice University, Texas
(a reputable source)
"According to Dr. Wiesner, tests that measure the accumulations of materials in the livers of laboratory animals have demonstrated that NANOPARTICLES ACCUMULATE WITHIN ORGANISMS and that nanomaterials, even inorganic ones, HAVE BEEN ABSORBED BY LIVING CELLS. 8. [At their mid-March fact-finding meeting, Wiesner informed EPA officials, 'We know nanomaterials have been taken up by cells. That sets off alarms. If bacteria can take them up, then we have an entry point for nanomaterials into the food chain.']"
(a reputable source)
"The nanomaterial itself may be benign, but, in the same way that proteins will bind to nanomaterials in the bloodstream, TOXINS, such as PESTICIDES, COULD BIND WITH NANOPARTICLES IN WATER, facilitating their transport (into the body)."
"The point is we don't know what accumulated amounts of any human-made nanomaterial will do in our LUNGS or our LIVERS or in our GROUNDWATER, even if we do know how bigger particles of the same material behave in our lungs and livers and groundwater. And so far no one has bothered to find out."
See the above quotes in this link from ETC Group (Click to go to ETC Group)
on Nanoparticle technology: (a reputable source)
Click here for the ETC Group's Nanomaterial article
Also from ETC Group:
"1997 - TITANIUM DIOXIDE/ZINC OXIDE nanoparticles from sunscreen are found to CAUSE FREE RADICALS IN SKIN CELLS, DAMAGING DNA. (Oxford University and Montreal University) Dunford, Salinaro et al.(8)" (a reputable source)
"January 2004 - Research by Dr. Gunter Oberdorster is published showing that NANOPARTICLES ARE ABLE TO MOVE EASILY FROM THE NASAL PASSAGEWAY TO THE BRAIN. "The nanotechnology revolution may design particles that are very different chemically from the ones we are exposed to, and they might have very different properties that made them more harmful. We should be vigilant." Professor Ken Donaldson, University of Edinburgh(13)" (a reputable source)
(Another excellent reason to not powder your nose with color cosmetic powders!)
"Though the market for nanoparticles will approach one BILLION dollars next year, neither government regulations nor labeling requirements exist in ANY country. Because nanoparticles are composed of elements and compounds whose toxicity is well-studied at larger scales, they have been assumed safe even though they can exhibit WILDLY DIFFERENT PROPERTIES from their larger siblings."
See the ETC Group's article here
Zinc oxide in our waterways: (a reputable source)
Read the waterway report here
Here's our opinion about wearing non-botanical color cosmetics: they are unnecessary vanity items and their manufacture and use is harmful to life on the planet. I view cosmetics made from metal ores (as opposed to plant dyes) (and other synthetic chemicals such as hair dyes) as I view second-hand cigarette smoke and wish I didn't have to be exposed to the chemical pollution from the manufacture and use of these products. If people could find a way to indulge their vanity without effecting my lungs, my brain, my life, my friends and all of the wildlife on the planet, then I say go ahead and indulge. Just don't dump your stuff in my air or water. Please. (Someone needs to speak for the animals who have no voice to speak out about all of the human body care products being dumped into THEIR water, their home. This dumping of chemical body care products into the water is a terrible form of animal cruelty.)
I base my opinion on synthetic color pigments from technical info about how they are manufactured. (they are synthetic according to the USDA definition of the word synthetic.) I am unhappy about the threat to the health of the planet and the environmentally UNfriendly manufacturing processes of body care ingredients that require energy-intensive fossil fuel consumption that contributes to our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign petroleum.
The FDA web site states that iron oxides are synthetic: (a reputable source)
FDA web page
For a description of the manufacturing of iron oxides color pigments:
Go here to read about color pigment manufacturing.
To see FDA color specs and general information go here
and, finally, go here.
Here are a few more interesting links about sunscreens and TiO2:
The rising rates of skin cancer -
Click here for the Mother Jones "Sunscam" sunscreen article
(a reputable source)
Bleaching Teeth -
Click here to read about Titanium Dioxide and teeth bleaching
(a reputable source)
Self-cleaning window glass -
Go here to read about Titanium Dioxide impregnated window glass
(a reputable source)
Monday, May 03, 2004
Parabens and propylene glycol. Do you want to see these chemicals in your natural body care products? Read the data below to help you decide whether you want to use these ingredients or dump them down the drain into our drinking water.
Parabens penetrate the skin and can be found in cancerous breast tumours. Is using a product with these chemicals in it worth the risk to you? Read about the latest study... here...
The EPA report "Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment: Agents of Subtle Change" states that parabens produced estrogenic activity in several assays. The report also says that "(personal care products) aquatic pollution is particularly troublesome because aquatic organisms (fish, frogs, turtles, manatees, etc.) are captive to continual life-cycle exposure...effects could accumulate so slowly that major change goes undetected until the cumulative level of these effects finally cascades to irreversible change."
Additionally, the report declares "The literature shows, however, that many of these compounds survive biodegradation. Many of these personal care products and their metabolites are ubiquitous and display persistence in, and bioconcentration from, surface waters on par with those of the widely recognized organochlorine pollutants."
This is the link to the EPA report (above).
Propylene glycol is a highly controversial chemical. What's the truth about propylene glycol? We've gathered some facts from reputable sources so that you can read scientific data instead of a manufacturer's hype and make an educated decision about whether you really want to rub this chemical into your body. First, you should know that the US government's Environmental Protection Agency has stated that "This substance/agent (propylene glycol) has not undergone a complete evaluation and determination under US EPA's IRIS program for evidence of human carcinogenic potential."
This chemical is definitely NOT an environmentally-friendly, sustainable material. Very energy-intensive in its use of fossil fuels--a big source of pollution, harmful to the planet and humans in its manufacture. Read the process for yourself to determine if you think this is something natural that you can make in your home kitchen or in your favorite restaurant. To get you started, here's an excerpt from a USDA National Organic Program material review report that discusses the complex, industrial process to make this chemical:
"Glycols from Sugar? Reactor Data Sorbitol can be cracked in the presence of hydrogen to yield a variety of different oxygenated products including ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, glycerol, and lactic acid. Also produced are various alcohols, C4/C5/C6 diols, and triols. The reaction is catalyzed by a RUTHENIUM catalyst at a pressure in excess of 1500 psig and at temperatures in the 400-500?F range. Selectivity and conversion data as well as reactor sizing information is provided in the attached patent (US 5403805, April 4, 1995, Ruthenium-Based Catalyst for Producing Lower Polyhydric Alcohols). The sorbitol must be diluted to a 40 wt% solution. The reaction requires a basic environment and caustic (NaOH) must be added to a 1:3 molar ratio with the sorbitol. Excess hydrogen (most frequently derived from petrochemical hydrocarbons or methanol) is required at a level of 20% above that needed for the reaction. The expected catalyst run length is one year before the catalyst must be regenerated by burning off coke formed during the reaction. The catalyst must be replaced every three years. '
"Purification Section Data There are three key purification issues for this project: 1. Removal of the Sodium required for the reactor. Usually, getting the sodium out as soon as practical is suggested, since sodium can cause fouling (salting) problems in downstream equipment. 2. Energy efficient removal of the water in the sorbitol feed." Cameron, D.C. "Microbial Catalysis for the Conversion of Sugars and Other Renewable Materials to Propanediols." University of Wisconsin-Madison. 1995."
To read the complete report go here...
Ruthenium catalyst? Go to this link to read an interesting history about ruthenium and about the complex chemical process used to isolate this toxic metal...
Ruthenium IS toxic. Read this report from the Netherlands...
Getting back on track with propylene glycol, here are many other tidbits about propylene glycol from various internet sources:
Propylene glycol is used in antifreeze and de-icing solutions. It is used as a solvent in the paint and plastics industries, and to make polyester compounds. It is used as a substitute for ethylene glycol mono-alkyl ethers in all-purpose cleaners, coatings, inks, nail polish, lacquers, latex paints, and adhesives. It is also used to create artificial smoke or fog used in fire-fighting training and in theatrical productions.
CFNP TAP Review
Propylene glycol 8/12/2002 and polyethylene glycol 400 (PEG 400) have been shown to differ in their potential to cause muscle damage following I.V. injection. In previous studies, propylene glycol was found to be more myotoxic than PEG 400, with cytosoliccalcium playing a role in mediating this damage.
CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS - Propylene glycol. (a) Propylene glycol (C3H8O2, CAS Reg. No. 57-55-6) is known as 1,2-propanediol. It does not occur in nature. Propylene glycol is manufactured by treating propylene with chlorinated water to form the chlorohydrin which is converted to the glycol by treatment with sodium carbonate solution. It is also prepared by heating glyercol with sodium hydroxide.
National Organic Standards Board Ontario, CA March 16-20, 1998
PROCESSING, HANDLING, AND LABELING COMMITTEE REPORT AND ADOPTED RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE SECRETARY II:
Areas in Proposed Rule that need modification and/or clarification from USDA 205.16 (a)(2)(iii) Product Composition "A non-organically produced agricultural product or a non-agricultural ingredient included on the National List that is extracted without the use of a synthetic volatile solvent or which does not contain propylene glycol as a carrier, if commercially available, shall be selected in preference to a product or ingredient that is extracted with a synthetic volatile solvent or which contains propylene glycol as a carrier." *Committee recommendation: Delete. Organically produced alternatives which do not use propylene glycol or hexane extracted solvents are commercially available.
Follow NOSB recommendations concerning the use of natural flavors and oil extraction which do not allow propylene glycol or hexane extraction.
The health effects data for propylene glycol were reviewed by the U.S. EPA RfD/RfC Work Group and determined to be inadequate for the derivation of an inhalation RfC. "The verification status of this chemical is currently not verifiable. This substance/ agent has not undergone a complete evaluation and determination under US EPA's IRIS program for evidence of human carcinogenic potential."
Status Among U.S. Certifiers State Organic Certifiers:
Minnesota--Follows USDA suggested guidelines.
Ohio-- Propylene glycol may not be used in organic crops, livestock, or processing, since it is not specifically mentioned in the National List as an allowable synthetic substance.
International IFOAM: In the 2000 final organic rule and in the 2002 final draft, there is no specific mention of propylene glycol as permissible.
CFNP TAP Review Propylene glycol 8/12/2002
It quotes a review by the American Academy of Dermatologists Inc. [January 1991], which stated that propylene glycol causes a significant number of reactions and was a primary irritant to the skin even in low concentrations. "It has been shown that propylene glycol: - has severe adverse health effects and has been found to cause contact dermatitis, kidney damage, and liver abnormalities - inhibits skin growth in human tests - damages cell membranes causing skin rashes, dry skin, and surface damage."
CFNP TAP Review Propylene glycol 8/12/2002 "Manufacturing propylene glycol from propylene, a petrochemical feedstock, presents environmental concerns."
Saturday, November 22, 2003
Vanquish Vanity: The Truth About Animal Cruelty
Endocrine disruptors. Most people have heard the term and some even have a general idea of what they are: environmental chemicals that affect the hormones in our body. Endocrine disruptors are primarily man-made synthetic chemicals that are inhaled, absorbed through the skin or ingested in food or water. These chemicals are taken up by the blood and deposited in the brain, where they mimic the body's own chemicals and, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have the potential to cause profound physiological changes in the reproductive and neurological systems of humans and wildlife.
Contrary to what you might think, these environmental chemical pollutants are not solely the result of chemical industry waste discharges. According to recent research conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS), Brunel University in the UK, Department of Environmental and Toxicological Chemistry at the University of Amsterdam, Institute of Pharmacology at the University of Zürich and many other environmental authorities around the world, many endocrine disrupting personal-care products were found downstream of water-treatment plants in rivers and in saltwater.
Here are a few environmental disrupting chemicals that have been found in products that are labeled “cruelty-free,” “organic” and “natural,” in our water and in the bodies of marine animals (and humans) around the world: tergitol (hair dyes), sunscreens (Octyl-methoxy cinnamate, PABA), detergents/nonionic surfactants (alkylphenol-ethoxylates/carboxylates), fragrances (phthalates) and preservatives (parabens & triclosan).
The EPA report “Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment: Agents of Subtle Change?” states that parabens produced estrogenic activity in several assays. The report also says that “(personal care products) aquatic pollution is particularly troublesome because aquatic organisms (fish, frogs, turtles, manatees, etc.) are captive to continual life-cycle exposure...effects could accumulate so slowly that major change goes undetected until the cumulative level of these effects finally cascades to irreversible change.”
Additionally, the report declares “The literature shows, however, that many of these compounds survive biodegradation… Many of these personal care products and their metabolites are ubiquitous and display persistence in, and bioconcentration from, surface waters on par with those of the widely recognized organochlorine pollutants.”
This chemical contamination of our waterways has escalated to such a serious level that the EPA has established an Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program to begin “evaluating” the 87,000 chemicals that are now in use in the USA. Good, you might be thinking. Not so good, when you learn that “evaluation” actually means animal testing and that, according to the Humane Society “Published scientific estimates on the number of animals to be used suggest from 600,000 to 1.2 million animals will be used for every 1,000 chemicals tested. The animals that will be used for testing include rodents, birds, frogs, flies, mysid shrimp, and fish.”
According to information compiled from the EPA and the US Census Bureau, Americans dump more than six billion pounds of body care chemicals into our waterways each year! That’s enough chemicals to fill approximately one thousand and fifty Olympic-sized swimming pools!
Humans thrived for millions of years without synthetic chemical products. Do you really need to dye your hair? Did you know that sunscreens have never been proven to prevent aging or skin cancer and that many authorities believe that they may actually be responsible for the dramatic rise in skin cancer? Do you really need the huge lather, thick bubbles and berry “fragrance” of chemical detergents to clean your hair and your body? About those paraben preservatives–they’re unnecessary, cheap chemicals that benefit the manufacturer’s bottom line, not you.
How can you help to stop the slaughter of animals and the poisoning of wildlife? Stop using synthetic chemical body care products! Question and research chemical ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Boycott phony “organic” and “natural” body care products that are filled with “derived from” synthetic chemicals. Unlike chemical ingredients, truly natural and organic materials like olive and coconut oils, beeswax, most essential oils and castile soap are considered to be safe and aren’t required to be tested on animals. Support honest companies who make non-chemical, true organic products to take care of your daily hygiene routines–safely. You can make a difference!
Monday, December 02, 2002
Castor Oil. Palma christi oil. For decades castor oil has been a part of the folk medicine repetoire. The oil has been used as an industrial lubricant, lamp oil, hot compress, laxative, body care product, etc. The plant material, stalks and leaves, when dried after a harvest are a highly potent allergen/sensitizer and cause severe, disabling allergic asthma in workers who handle the material. The mash that remains after the oil has been pressed or solvent-extracted is toxic to many animals. The majority of castor oil that is produced today is produced in the Middle East, India and Africa. Curiously, there are no significant scientific studies that can strongly document skin healing properties or other therapeutic effects.
There are two interesting things that can be reported about this oil: 1) it has never been used as a food for humans and 2) when you type the words "castor oil army ricin" into the search engine "google," there are 1950 results linking to the potential use of ricin (a deadly component of castor beans) being used in biowarfare terrorist attacks to kill US citizens and many listings for our government's and the military's concerns about ricin's ease of manufacturing and the virtually unlimited quanitities of castor beans available for processing ricin.
For an enlightening report on castor beans and ricin production visit this article from the Harvard Independent magazine titled "Iraq Sharpens Weapons Disguise."
Why would a self-proclaimed health-conscious, environmentally-friendly, socially-responsible business choose to use this oil in their body care products that are being offered in the health/environmental products industry? If you review the results in the google search recommended above, you will see that the terrorist problem and the potent allergen/sensitizer problem are not a new problem. Why would you want to use products made from castor oil when the many negatives far outweigh the anecdotal "positives?" I think I'll pass, thanks.
Sunday, November 24, 2002
I don't know about you, but I am getting pretty sick and darn tired of what I'm going to call "organic scamming." It seems to grow worse with every passing week. The deeper that you look, the wider the scamming turns out to be. Why don't you hear about this organic scamming more frequently? Think about the following idea for a momemt.
As a personal experiment, take a look at the advertisements in the magazines that you look to for "health" information. What kinds of products are being advertised? Do you see large, full-page ads for small body care companies in all of these magazines every month? No, you won't see this happening. Why not? Here's why: the advertising "space" for a one page ad, in just one magazine for just ONE isssue costs between $9000 to $20,000 and upwards, on average. (this figure does not include photographer and ad design costs) So, to run an ad in twelve issues of just one magazine, it would cost a company $108,000 to $240,000 dollars per magazine. If ads are run in ten different magazines in the course of one year, we're now talking about $2.4 million dollars in advertising costs from just one manufacturer. Who has this amount of capital in their advertising budget? Small, organic farms and body care producers don't have these kinds of funds available.
If a magazine has, say, 150 pages and 60% of those pages (90 pages) are advertising, we're now looking at revenues of approximately $1.6 million dollars per month and upwards of $20 million dollars per year. (It is important to note that, in the publishing world, "health" types of magazines are considered a "niche" market and their ad space costs can be, perhaps, half of what a mass-market's ad space might cost.) Make no mistake though, my friend, this is still big business.
If a publication is receiving these kinds of revenues, how likely is it, for example, that they are going to publish serious, investigative articles on detrimental health effects of synthetic chemicals that may be found in their advertiser's products? Not very likely at all, I'm afraid. Think about it, when was the last time that you saw information such as what you might find in our newsletter, Exposure, in any of your health magazines? Indeed. How likely is it that the magazines would want to report on truly unique and superior products (at the risk of offending their advertisers, making them look less healthy)? Some folks might not want to believe that this type of censorship goes on, but be assured, the advertisers, ultimately, with the very large threat of pulling their advertising dollars from the magazines, call the shots regarding what is revealed to the public. I have seen, and have in my possession, an ad in which one manufacturer and one publisher actually publicize their alliance! Boy! Who owns whom? It's all one big blur.
So, in response to the gross lack of information NOT being made available by the established, mainstream media, here is our newsletter of truths for your review. For your information, this newsletter is totally self-funded. We do not accept advertising funding from outside corporations. Gee, do you think you'll see any reporting of our work in those healthy publications?
A few weeks ago we reported that the USDA had conducted a scientific study on grapefruit seed (also called citrus seed extract) extracts (GSE) (synthetic quaternary ammonium compounds) and determined that the majority of extracts that they studied had high levels of the chemical BENZETHONIUM CHLORIDE. read the USDA summary on grapefruit seed extracts. Now, we'd like to present you with more reports from around globe on the chemical benzethonium chloride. (For our original postings on GSE use your browser's "find" command to search for other entries of "grapefruit seed extract" further down on this page)
The Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food Products (SCCNFP) stated in their final report for the European Union on Benzethonium chloride, dated 27 February 2002, that "The data provided in the submitted dossier does not support the requested use of Benzethonium chloride as a preservative in leave-on (body care) products." Here are a few other excerpts from various tests conducted in the SCCNFP study: 1) "The high-dose produced growth depression, increased irritability, respiratory signs in the parents and decreased viability and body weight of pups at birth." 2) "In a teratogenicity study...the high-dose group showed decreased maternal body weight and an increased number of smaller pups. An increased incidence of skeletal variants occurred in all treated groups."
The National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health reported that "benzethonium chloride is used as an antiinfective, in veterinary medicine as a topical antiseptic, and as a cationic detergent. Cationic detergents are used agriculturally in herbicides and in antiseptics, spermicides, astringents, germicides, disinfectants, and preservatives. Hypersensitivity reactions have been reported in twelve of forty-two individuals treated with a topical preparation containing benzethonium chloride"
The Swiss Toxicological Information Centre of Basle, Switzerland reports that "Benzethonium chloride is a disinfectant (quaternary ammonium compound, cationic detergent) contained mainly in cleansing agents but also in locally active medications (against sore throat, spermicides). Cationic detergents are more toxic than other detergents. Toxicity of concentrated solutions (more than 5-10%) is based upon their caustic action and upon their systemic toxic effects. Symptoms after dermal application of a concentrated solution are irritation, dermatitis, and bullous lesions. Contamination of the eye may lead from mild discomfort to corneal lesions depending on the concentration. Oral application of concentrated solutions leads to caustic burns of the oral and esophageal mucosa, nausea, emesis, abdominal pain, diarrhea, pulmonary edema, hypotension, metabolic acidosis, and depression of the central nervous system (sleepiness to coma), seizures, and death. Grapefruit seed extracts containing benzethonium chloride in concentrations of 7-11% represent a major health risk if larger amounts of a concentrated solution are ingested (i.e. by mouthful). Exposure of the skin or the eye may cause toxic symptoms. The Swiss Toxicological Information Centre discourages consumers from administration of these extracts unless it is known which of them are containing benzethonium chloride and what the concentrations are."
One manufacturer of grapefruit seed extract, GSE, has stated that its extract contains compounds similar to the toxic benzethonium chloride and that their compounds can be mistaken for the toxic compounds. However you choose to look at the situation, grapefruit seed extract IS still, undisputably, a synthetic compound, and it is NOT approved for organic foods and, because it is distributed by several different companies to, perhaps, hundreds of manufacturers, how do you know what is in the grapefruit seed extract that is in so many of your "natural" and "organic" body care products?
Why question the safety of ingredients in body care products that you rub on your skin? Scientists at Stanford University reported in 1999 that they found that they could deliver an effective dose of a vaccine in a shower with one shampooing. How so? Through the hair follicles! The vaccine in the study was absorbed into the body through the hair follicles on unshaven, unbroken skin. Dr. Stephen Johnston, director of the Center for Biomedical Inventions at the University of Texas said "This work (at Stanford) says that we've been administering vaccines in the wrong place. Soaking it into the skin is a lot simpler (and less painful)."
If you can absorb an effective dose of a vaccine simply by having it come into contact with your skin, how much of the toxic synthetics in your body and hair care products are you absorbing through your skin--feeding to your organs and brain every day? How can you be the healthiest that you can be if your body is constantly being bombarded by a wide array of man-made petro and oleochemicals and their processing residues?
When there is big business and big money to be made, you must look at "health" claims and claims of "naturalness" and "organic" with a magnifying glass and the bigger the magnifying glass, the better. It's for your own good--you have to watch out for yourself. So, if you feel that you can't control the air outside your home, don't fret about it too much. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), your biggest toxic air pollution exposure comes from the air in your own home, and we now know that your other major exposures are from the products that you use to clean your body and your home. These are the simple decisions that you make every day, decisions about the things in your personal environment. Remember, you can control what you rub on and put in your body. Are synthetic chemicals worth the risk to you? Is it really worth the potential compromise to your future health and longevity to save a few dollars today when you buy synthetic body care products? I don't think that compromising one's health is a good idea, do you?
Page 2 >>