A – Z of Toxicity in our home – Petroleum Distillates

  • Clear colourless liquid used to dissolve other liquids in personal care products
  • Petroleum distillates are a suspected human carcinogen.
  • Found in:
    • mascara, perfume, foundation, lipstick and lip balm
  • Problems associated with it:
    • Neurotoxicity


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A – Z of Toxicity in our home – Phthalates

  • pronounced ‘thalates’, they are salts or esters of phthalic acid.
  • Phthalates are used in a variety of personal care products as fragrances – to make them linger.
  • They are also used as a lubricant in cosmetics.
  • Commonly found in plastic food and drink containers they are also present in our food and water (from pesticides sprayed on our food), in dairy products and meats, plastic toys and medical instruments amongst a host of other consumer products.
  • Phthalates are thought to mimic, displace and disrupt our hormones, which subsequently lead to imbalances in our body.
  • The two phthalates most extensively used in cosmetics are: Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) Diethyl phthalate (DEP).
  • Found in:
    • Perfume, fragranced lotions, body washes and hair care products, talc, deodorant, nail polish and treatment as well as hair spray.
    • Even products labeled “unscented” contain phthalates as a chemical scent masking agent

A – Z of Toxicity in our home – Triclosan

  • Triclosan and triclocarban are chlorinated aromatic compounds highly soluble in water.
  • They are registered as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Agency since 1969, and used in personal care products and detergents, to name a few, as a means to slow down or stop the growth of bacteria, fungi and mildew.
  • Research proves that this active agent is highly toxic to aquatic life.
  • A study in young male rats proves that it disrupts thyroid functioning in low dosage levels.
  • Ongoing research is being conducted on its effect on human beings. We do however know that extensive use of this chemical as an anti-bacterial allows bacteria to become resistant to it making antibiotics meant to cure related diseases completely ineffective.
  • Research has proven that plain soap and water to clean and wash do the job as well as one that claims anti-bacterial action, making this an unnecessary ingredient in our personal care products.
  • Found in:
  • Soaps, toothpastes, hair products, underarm deodorants, mouthwashes and household sanitising products
  • Read the label for:
  • “Active ingredient”, “anti-bacterial” and “odour-fighting”
  • Problems associated with it:
  • Liver and inhalation toxicity, hypothyroidism, oestrogen dominance/excess oestrogen, endocrine disrupter (chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife), hormonal disorders in children, reduced immunity, allergies

A – Z of Toxicity in our home – PEG compounds

  • Polyethylene glycol is a family of petroleum compounds widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, moisture-carriers, solvents and softeners.
  • As a penetration enhancer, it allows other harmful compounds often found in PEGs to be absorbed by our skin.
  • This includes 1,4-dioxane which is a known carcinogen, as well as heavy metals such as lead, cobalt, iron, arsenic and cadmium.
  • PEGs are followed by a number correlating to the number of ethylene glycol units in it, as well as its absorbency rate.
  • The lower the number the higher its ability to be absorbed by our skin.
  • Problems associated with it:
    • Systemic toxicity and if used on broken skin it can cause irritation
  • Found in:
    • Cosmetics as cream bases

A – Z of Toxicity in our home – Oxybenzone

  • Oxybenzone or benzophenone-3 (trade names Milestab 9, Eusolex 4360, Escalol 567, KAHSCREEN BZ-3) is an organic compound.
  • It is a pale-yellow solid that is readily soluble in most organic solvents.
  • Oxybenzone belongs to the class of aromatic ketones known as benzophenones.
  • Studies have shown its high penetrative capacity as well as our bodies ability to store it.
  • This is potentially harmful since it is known to mimic oestrogen in our body and has been linked to breast cancer.
  • Found in:
    • Sunscreens, lipstick, moisturiser and fragrance for women.
  • Read the label for:
    • Benzophenone-3, oxybenzone
  • Problems associated with it:
    • Hormone disruption, allergies, cell damage


A – Z of Toxicity in our home – Glycol Ethers

  • A common solvent in paints, cleaning products, brake fluid and cosmetics, glycol ethers are known to shrink the testicles of rats exposed to it.
  • Linked to the damage of fertility of unborn children, as well as reported cases of asthma and allergy in children exposed to it from the paint that coats their bedroom walls.
  • Case studies conducted on painters have linked exposure of certain glycol ethers to blood abnormalities and lower sperm counts.
  • Found in:
    • Paints, household cleaners, cosmetics, perfumes
  • Read the label for:
    • 2-butoxyethanol, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether
  • Problems associated with it:
    • Impaired fertility, reproductive and developmental toxicity, possible human carcinogen

A – Z of Toxicity in our home – Parabens

  • An artificial preservative used in personal care products,
  • Parabens are the reason sunscreens, deodorants, shampoos and conditioners do not ‘spoil’.
  • Research has shown that it takes 26 seconds for our skin to absorb parabens into our bloodstream.
  • Pregnant women and young children are most vulnerable to this family of synthetics.
  • Problems associated with it:
    • Breast cancer, endocrine disrupter, allergies
  • Read the label for:
    • Ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, other ingredients ending in –paraben

A – Z of Toxicity in our home – Formaldehyde / Formaldehyde releasers

  • Some cosmetics chemicals are designed to react with water in the bottle to generate a little formaldehyde, a preservative, to keep the product from growing mould and bacteria.
  • But formaldehyde is a potent allergen which the World Health Organization consider carcinogenic.
  • Formaldehyde releasers include DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and quaternium-15.
  • A 2010 study found that nearly one fifth of cosmetic products contained a formaldehyde releaser. Johnson & Johnson, a personal care products giant, is phasing out formaldehyde releasers under pressure from health advocates
  • Where do you find them?
    • Shampoos, conditioners, bubble bath and other personal care products.
    • Even those intended for children.