It's unbelieveable, but the average home can have a multitude of chemicals and pollutants that's harmful to the body. They can be found in common products, ranging from your floor detergent, to shampoos and your moisturisers.
Many of these chemicals have not been sufficiently tested for safety, and even where official safety levels have been established for individual chemicals, their residues can combine to form harmful substances.
The mountain of information available can be daunting. Home On Earth has put together a list of key facts that we, as parents, would hope every parent to know.
The Absorbent Skin You may think,"I don't eat my detergents or skincare products. Why should I care?" Good point, and an important one. What most of us, don't realise is that the skin has an amazing ability to absorb substances through mere contact. Just think about nicotine patches and HRT patches - how do they work? Starting to see the light? Good!
In fact, one of the body's most vital functions is to convert toxins into safe, soluble substances, which can then be eliminated in our urine, or through the gall-bladder into the intestines. However, chemicals that are absorbed through the skin bypass this natural process and is directly absorbed by the various body systems.
The Breathing Skin Our skin is the biggest organ. It protects, filters, absorbs and excretes wastes. Your skin needs to be healthy and intact for it to function well, and part of that depends on its ability to "breathe".Petrochemicals, most notably mineral oil used in so many body products, coat the skin with an impermeable layer, choking up pores and preventing them from expelling wastes effectively. Sulphates and caustics can damage the skin's epidermis, resulting in sensitivies and skin problems over the long-term. Those with sensitive skin typically reacts with contact dermatitis and rashes.
Multi-Exposure Now, our bodies CAN deal with naturally occurring toxins and, when we are healthy, they do that very well. However, the world has changed rapidly in the past century.
More than 50,000 chemicals now appear in products widely available on supermarket shelves. in the market. Factor in polluted air, water, pesticides in food, hormones in meat - phew, what an overload! Instead of being eliminated, many of the toxins may be stored in fat and tissues in the body, or go on to cause cell mutations or even cancer.
Children and Babies Children, with their immature systems and thinner skin tissues, are especially vulnerable to exposure. Physically, their still-developing body systems are less proficient at processing harmful compounds. The early years are also time of critical growth and rapid cell division. The home environment is especially important because children spend so much of their time playing and crawling on the floor, and putting things into their mouths. Prominent scientists are now alleging a link between the rampant use of dangerous chemicals in everyday products with the rise in childhood cancers.
Homemaker Alert! Choosing natural/organic personal-hygiene products is not only important for children. Women, on average, take in twice their body weight in toxic chemicals during their lifetime, compared to men's consumption of half their body weight. Women are also more likely to come into contact with household chemicals, which lie at the root of hormonal imblances, causing conditions such as PMS, fertility problems and early puberty, as well as many menopausal symptoms.
Questionable Safety Standards At this point, you may exclaim:"But surely these chemicals have been tested for safety??"
Unfortunately things are not so straight-forward. Regulations for body products are very lax. And even if one or more chemicals may be safe on their own, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that when several chemicals are combined, this could cause problems 'at levels below thresholds presently known to cause adverse health effects'.
Short-term exposure to these toxic cocktails can aggravate symptons of fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea and skin irritation within hours of use. Long-term exposure has been linked to cancer, respiratory disease, immune-system suppression, birth defects and even genetic changes.
On a brighter note, there has been increasing calls for more adequate testing of chemicals that are used in common products.
(Source: The Safe Shopper's Bible, The Environmental Working Group)
Cancer prevention Coalition
The Environmental Working Group
Women's Environmental Network