Boost your immunity by eliminating a cocktail of chemicals from the home!

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Boost your immunity by eliminating a cocktail of chemicals from the home!

By Dr Janey Little

Minimise the workload on your immune system!

The well-being of our immune system has always been paramount but perhaps never more so than during these current times with the Global Crisis and the impact of 5G. While our extraordinary innate immunity is constantly working on our behalf to protect us from these threats and others, it is wise to support our immune system by minimising exposure to everyday challenges. In doing so we reduce the workload placed upon our immune system and free it up to do what it does so well in keeping us safe and healthy.

Know your home-cleaning and body-care products!

Here we will look at the often inadvertent, yet ongoing, erosive challenges to our immunity from exposure to toxic chemicals in the home in the form of home-cleaning and body-care products. These products are absorbed directly through our skin, the largest organ of our body which is highly absorbable to all that which is applied to it (body-care products) and that which we come into contact with eg products used in cleaning of the home. Ingredients within these products are absorbed through our skin and into our circulation. If these ingredients are toxic they in turn place a large burden on our liver to process and detoxify them, as well as on our various organs of elimination to clear them from the body. If this continues on an ongoing basis, eventually these immune functions are over-stretched and disease results.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)

It is also worth noting that direct contact with many of these products is not the only form of potential intoxication. Toxic ingredients may also be emitted as gases from certain solid or liquid products and are referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) . These may also exert adverse health effects including symptoms of the respiratory system, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, as well as adverse effects of the central nervous system and even cancer with longer term exposure. It is important to note that the concentration of these VOC’s are consistently higher indoors, reaching levels up to 10x higher than outdoors.

A barrage of toxic chemicals every day

Most people are exposing themselves to a barrage of toxic chemicals every day without knowing it and often experiencing the resultant symptoms without attributing them to this ongoing exposure in the home. The good news is that as soon as we become conscious of it and make appropriate changes, the symptoms can quickly and permanently resolve because the cause has been addressed. Added to this, our immune system is enabled to more adequately protect us in all other areas of our life.

Many people are still of the belief that if a product appears on a supermarket shelf it can be considered adequately safe. Sadly, this is not the case and so it becomes necessary for us to equip ourselves with the knowledge to make wiser choices when shopping for the home.

Common symptoms

The following is a list of common symptoms related to household ingredients found routinely in the home:

  • skin irritations and/or drying of the skin
  • allergic reactions
  • headaches
  • eye, nose and throat irritation
  • coughing
  • asthma
  • skin discolouration
  • dizziness
  • low energy
  • hormonal disruptions
  • cancer

It would be impossible for most of us to remember all the names of chemicals and their safety index, so I have compiled the following list of 20 most commonly found groups of hazardous chemicals in household and body-care products for your greater ease. This is not an exhaustive list but it should help in navigating through the cocktail of chemicals on your way to cleaner living. I have also included a list of additives which are considered safe below.

20 Hazardous chemical additives in body-care and household products

1.Mineral oil and Petrolatum: These are by-products of the petroleum industry. Just as it coats the skin of birds and animals during an oil-slick, personal care products that use mineral oil as a base cause your skin to be coated like a plastic wrap.  It prevents the skin from adequately acquiring oxygen and from releasing toxins to the outside.  Diseases can result over time due to the increasing toxin levels within the body that are prevented from being easily eliminated by this ‘chemical-wrap’.  Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, skin cancer etc can develop. It also reduces the skin’s normal biological functions thus promoting ageing (the opposite of what they promise to do!)

Note: Choose moisturisers, lotions etc which contain ‘aqua’ as their main carrier (and therefore first listed ingredient) as opposed to ‘mineral oil’.

2. Sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate (SLS and SLES): these two chemicals are present in most of our every-day health-care products such as toothpastes, shampoos, conditioners, bubble bath, shower gels etc.  They are commonly used due to their ability to cause a desired foaming action.  However, it may surprise you to hear that they are used as skin-irritants in test labs and are sufficiently potent in their action to feature as a regular ingredient of detergent-type products such as car washes, garage-floor washes, engine degreasers etc.  SLS penetrates the skin with residues accumulating in the brain, liver, lungs and heart.  It has also been shown to mimic the action of oestrogen, thus potentially contributing to hormone disruption and diseases such as breast cancer.  It also causes eye irritation and due to its irritant effect on the skin causes denaturing of proteins which can lead to early stages of skin cancer.

3. Propylene Glycol (PG): This is added as a penetration enhancing agent, enabling other chemicals to enter the skin and bloodstream.  It is a known skin irritant, a carcinogen and is a potential endocrine disruptor and neurotoxin. It is found in over 3000 products including lotions, sunscreens, deodorants, body washes, shampoos and conditioners.

4. Parabens (eg methyl,ethyl, propyl and butylparaben): One of the most widely used preservatives found in shampoos, creams, deodorants, pharmaceutical drugs etc. Parabens have been demonstrated to mimic oestrogen and are repeatedly found in breast tumours with an increased incidence of tumours in the upper outer quadrant (UOQ) of breast tissue (ie the area of the breast closest to the arm pit) in line with their usage in deodorants.

5. Aluminium:  A common ingredient in deodorants and is strongly correlated with Alzheimer’s and other CNS diseases.

6. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG): A petroleum compound used in skin-care products eg moisturisers, sun creams, cleansers, many baby products and cosmetics, as well as pharmaceutical laxatives. PEG can cause the opposite of the desired effect of a skin product, stripping the skin of its natural moisture and causing skin rashes or dermatitis. This makes the skin more vulnerable to absorption of foreign substances. In addition, the contaminants often found in PEG are known carcinogens linked to breast cancer, leukaemia, brain and nervous system cancer, bladder, stomach and pancreatic cancer as well as Hodgkins disease.

7. Phthalates eg Dibutylphthalate, diethylphthalate (Shortened to DBP, DEP etc):  These are used in plastics and to help lotions absorb into the skin.  However, they are toxic and are endocrine disruptors.  DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in personal-care products including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes, cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions. DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) is used in PVC plastics. BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) is used in some flooring, car products and personal care products. DMP (dimethyl phthalate) is used in insect repellents and some plastics.

8. Isopropyl alcohol: This is a solvent derived from the petrochemical industry which when inhaled or ingested may cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, depression.  It is found in after-shave lotions, hair-colour rinses, body lotions and creams etc.

9. Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA) and Monoethanolamine (MEA): These are hormone-disrupting chemicals known to cause cancer through their formation of nitrates and nitrosamines.  Found in soaps, bubble baths, facial cleansers, body washes, shampoos etc. Dr Samuel Epstein, Professor of Environmental Health stated, “repeated skin applications of DEA based detergents resulted in a major increase in the incidence of two cancers – liver and kidney cancers.”

10. Benzaldehyde: Is an irritant of the eyes, mouth and intestinal tract, as well as the skin. It also depresses the nervous system and can cause kidney damage. It is found in perfumes, cologne, shaving cream, dishwasher detergent, shampoo, soap etc.

11. Synthetic Fragrances (or perfumes): this refers to a broad category of over 4000 different ingredients, most of which are synthetic and toxic, as well as potentially carcinogenic.  Most contain phthalates! Symptoms reported are headaches, dizziness, coughing, vomiting, skin rashes and discolouration.  Choose essential oils instead.

12. Synthetic Colours: Present in soaps, toothpastes, shampoos, conditioners, shaving lotions, styling products, cosmetics etc. There are often dozens of chemicals in a single dye making it difficult to know what you are exposing your body to. Some colourants are made from coal tar, and some contain heavy metals including lead. They can increase skin sensitivity and irritation, block skin pores causing acne and when absorbed certain artificial colours cause allergic reactions and cancer.  Natural alternatives for colouring include seaweed powder, clay, spices and even foods eg coffee and molasses.

13. Imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl Urea and DMDM Hydantoin (formaldehyde releasing compounds): These amongst many other formaldehyde-producing compounds are found in skin, hair and nail-care products. They account for the strong chemical smells emanating from nail-care salons and cause headaches, joint pain, allergies and chronic fatigue, while aggravating coughs and asthma. They also suppress the immune system.

14. Talc: Commonly found as an ingredient from baby powders to a multitude of women’s cosmetics eg blush, foundation, eye shadow etc. Talc can be contaminated with asbestos fibres creating a risk for respiratory toxicity and cancer. The National Toxicology Panel also demonstrated that cosmetic-grade talc free of asbestos is a form of magnesium silicate which can also be toxic and carcinogenic.

15. Fluoride: Still routinely added to most conventional tooth paste (and municipal water in many areas). It increases the risk of thyroid dysfunction, is a neurotoxin and may cause dental fluorosis. Choose fluoride-free toothpaste.

16. PVP/VA Copolymer: This is found in most mainstream hair care products that provide the ‘hold factor’ – therefore found in hairsprays, gels and styling creams. It is a synthetic ingredient derived from petroleum and if inhaled can cause damage to the lungs of sensitive individuals.

17. EDTA: Is used in small amounts in formulas as a chelating agent binding with metals to make lotions more stable. This is a lower risk ingredient, however at higher doses can draw zinc and other elements out of the body.

18. Nonylphenols: Classified as an endocrine disruptor affecting hormone balance.

19. Stearalkonium Chloride: Used primarily in hair products as an anti-static agent. It is generally safe and non-toxic at the levels typically found in products (01.5%), however at higher concentrations (25% solutions) it has been show to be a skin and eye irritant.

20. Phenylenediamine: Widely used in hair dyes. Can cause irritation to skin, eyes and lungs, as well allergies and organ toxicity. Best avoided!

I would suggest avoiding future purchases of products which contain the ingredients listed above. You may also want to consider doing a thorough spring-clean of your body-care and household products checking for all these ingredients and discarding those which do not ‘pass the test’.

Additives that are considered safe!

  • Alginate
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Carotene
  • Casein
  • Chlorophyll
  • Citric acid
  • Curcumin
  • Guar Gum
  • Gum acacia or Gum Arabic
  • Hydrogen carbonate
  • Lactic acid
  • Lecithin
  • Mono and diglycerides
  • Niacin
  • Pectin
  • Polysorbate 60 and 80
  • Propionic acid and propionates
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Sorbic acid and sorbates
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • Vitamin E (tocopherol)
  • Xanthan gum

Become aware of ‘Greenwashing’

It is also important to become cognisant of ‘greenwashing’. This refers to misleading marketing which implies that a product is natural. It is extremely common-place and is often evident in the naming or packaging of products that infers to the untrained eye that the product is ‘green’ and safe. Images and colours suggestive of nature are often used to achieve this. Alternately, advertising may refer to the absence of one ingredient that makes it more environmentally safe, while failing to note that it contains ingredients that could be harmful to the individual using it. Be conscious of this, and choose your products after careful assessment of ingredients.

Health shops and farmers’ markets

Your best sources of products containing safe additives are health shops and farmers’ markets. Having said that, it is still good practice to empower yourself with the knowledge of ingredients that are safe for you and your family by referring to this list. This allows you to assess products yourself from an informed place and avoids being mislead by greenwashing.

A final note

Making the transition to a ‘non-toxic home’ can be daunting if this is your first foray into this arena. Please don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by it all. Make the transition in stages if that helps and soon you will become aware of the trusted brands that will make your shopping experience a breeze!

Have fun with this as you make this amazing transition to cleaner living! 🙂 Please share any improvement in symptoms that you notice as a result of making this shift!

References: Desiree Schmuck, Jorge Matthes and Brigitte Naderer

Please share
  1. Thank you Dr Janey for reminding me once again to look a little further into what can be changed or avoided and I just replaced my plastic electric kettle with a glass one (realized that the water had a warm plastic taint)

    1. You’re very welcome Elena and well done for replacing your plastic kettle! This is a very commonly overlooked issue and is an important one as the boiling water can certainly contribute to leaching of phthalates (plasticizers) from the plastic kettle into the water and subsequently into the hot drinks we consume.

  2. So many people are oblivious to the fact that scalp therapy shampoos for fast hair growth (obviously with no sulfates, no parabens or DEA) exist. Individuals now may attain longer hair and experience more options. Certainly worth considering.

    If you’re talking about hair loss, hair damage, avoiding skin disorders, hair growth, hair and scalp health normally, almost the same thoughts apply.

    In general, you have to stay away from hair treatments and products that use chemicals like parabens, DEA or sulfates.

    What’s healthy for your hair is healthy for your skin as well.

    For obvious reasons your content above is so accurate for various reasons. It steers away from the accustomed pitfalls and traps too many fall into- getting bad alternatives. Keep it up!

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