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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Toxic Ingredients Are Often Unlisted

Research studies done by government, academic and independent researchers reveal that before babies are even born, their bodies are contaminated with up to 358 different chemicals. They include flame retardants, pesticides, fragrances, insulating materials, industrial coolants and lubricants, perfluorocarbon used to make non-stick cookware, and bisphenyl A (BPA) used to make plastic and epoxy resins found in electronics, metal cans, and plastic food and beverage containers.

Many of these chemicals have been linked to cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, weakened immune systems, imbalances in thyroid and sex hormones, and even cancer. Last April, the President’s Cancer Panel, a joint effort by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, urged everyone to reduce their exposure to chemicals in foods, water, cigarette smoke, medicines, medical tests and household products.

But identifying dangerous chemicals can be difficult if not impossible. A study recently published in the Environmental Impact Assessment Review analyzed 25 common household products and found toxic ingredients in every single sample. Cancer-causing compounds were also detected in nearly half of the products tested. Products included best selling brands of laundry detergent, dryer sheets, fabric softener, soap, shampoo, lotion, hand sanitizer, deodorant, dish detergent, all-purpose spray, household disinfectant and air fresheners (solids, sprays and oils).

Each product was placed in an enclosed glass container at room temperature and the surrounding air was analyzed for evaporated chemicals using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). All together, the 25 products released 421 chemicals, including 133 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals with known effects on the environment and/or human health. Of the 133 VOCs identified, 24 are classified as toxic or hazardous under US laws.

Researchers found that alone, each product emitted an average of 17 VOCs and at least one toxic or hazardous compound. Almost half the products (11 out of 25) contained carcinogens recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency. And emissions from products promoted as “green,” "organic," and "natural" did not significantly differ from other products.

Manufacturers of household products are not required to list all ingredients on the labels, nor are they required to disclose any ingredients regarded as "fragrance." (And a single "fragrance" can contain several hundred ingredients.) In the study, only one of the 133 VOCs (ethanol) was listed on a product label and only two were listed on any material safety data sheet, a widely used system for cataloging information about a chemical's risks, safety and effect on the environment.

What can you do to protect yourself and your family?

Read this post for my top twelve recommendations.


Enviornmental Working Group. Pollution in People: Cord Blood Contaminants in Minority Newborns. 2009. Available online at:

Reuben SH et al for the President’s Cancer Panel. Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, 2008-2009 Annual Report. April 2010. Available online at:

Steinemann AC et al. Fragranced Consumer Products: Chemicals Emitted, Ingredients Unlisted. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 2010. DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2010.08.002

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