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The Five Worst...

By Jody Villecco, July 16, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Jody Villecco
The Five Worst Environmental Pollutants in Your Beauty Products This is a reprint of an article featured on GOOD. By now we've already covered a little of how products can affect our health, but it bears reminding that what's good for us is also generally good for the planet—and vice versa. Because Whole Foods is a pioneer in natural personal-care, even issuing new organic labeling guidelines to their suppliers, we asked them to tell us the top five most environmentally noxious ingredients used in personal-care products, and why we should avoid them. 1.  Antibacterial Compounds Triclosan and chlorphenesin are often the active ingredients in antibacterial soaps. They do not break down in the environment and may contribute to bacterial resistance. These ingredients are also known to cause aquatic toxicity. A recent FDA advisory panel report even stated that antibacterial soaps are no more effective than regular soaps. Triclosan and chlorphenesin are not allowed in any products sold in Whole Foods Market stores. 2. Synthetic Chelators Chelators, such as the commonly used trisodium EDTA, are used in personal-care products to remove impurities from low-quality raw materials. They are problematic for two reasons. First, there is environmental research data showing that chelators do not readily biodegrade in the environment. Second, since the function of synthetic chelators is to remove impurities from low-quality raw materials, there is no real need for these ingredients in high-quality natural products to begin with. So shop wisely and you won't run into this one. 3. Petroleum-derived Ingredients One-hundred-percent petroleum derived ingredients, such as mineral oil and petrolatum, come with some unpleasant environmental realities. For one thing, they are derived from non-renewable resources. These ingredients are also bad for functional reasons, since they form a barrier when applied to skin that does not allow it to breathe. Finally, they often contain impurities as a result of the manufacturing processes—which is something consumers have almost no way of knowing about, but should guard against. Other ingredients to avoid in this category are parrafin, lily white gel, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, alkyl benzoate, and ammonium polacrylate. 4. Chemical Sunscreens Chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate, have some human-safety concerns, since many have been shown to disrupt endocrine activity. Every year, gallons of chemical sunscreens wash off people’s skin and into the oceans, which can be toxic to marine life. Physical sunscreens, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are safer alternatives for humans and the environment. 5. Aerosol Sprays Aerosol sprays like those used in hairspray are the gases that propel the product out of the can. Fortunately, since the late 1970s, consumer aerosol products made in the United States have not contained ozone-depleting CFCs. All consumer—and most other—aerosol products made or sold in the United States now use propellants such as hydrocarbons and compressed gases like nitrous oxide that do not deplete the ozone layer. While aerosol spray cans produced in some other countries might still use CFCs, they cannot legally be sold in the States. Illustrations by Brianna Harden This is the seventh installment in a series inspired by No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics, a forthcoming book by GOOD's features editor Siobhan O'Connor and her co-author Alexandra Spunt. It will run every Tuesday and Thursday on the GOOD blog.
Category: Trends & New Stuff

 

9 Comments

Comments

Beckey Ranstrom says ...
Great article...just thought I would let you know about a typo. Every year, gallons of chemical sunscreens wash of people’s skin and into the oceans, which can be toxic to marine life. The above is the sentence and should read....sunscreens wash OFF people's skin..... :) Thanks for the good information!
07/22/2010 6:45:09 AM CDT
kimberly says ...
Why do you carry products with high fructose corn syrup, parabens, and sodium lauryl sulfates in your stores? Also, half the sunscreens you carry have oxybenzone. I love your store, and am a loyal customer, but I do get upset knowing that I cannot "trust" your shelves anymore than I can any other grocery store. I think you should practice what you preach, Whole Foods Market.
07/21/2010 11:04:49 AM CDT
Linda says ...
I have been trying to tell this to people for years! Thanks for posting!
07/20/2010 5:13:41 PM CDT
Aejin H says ...
Wow, I didn't know that anti-bacterial soaps were bad for the environment. Bath and Body works looks really evil all of a sudden...
07/20/2010 1:17:40 PM CDT
Todd says ...
Why do you carry products with these ingredients? Also, months ago in my local WFM, nature's gate toothpaste were pulled for having parabens, this is what a employee told me. Last time I was in the store, they were back on the shelf, still with parabens. That same WFM has Karo syrup! I think posting articles like these are a little hypocritical. I don't want these chemicals in products I buy, but if WFM also feels that way enough to publish this in a newsletter, they shouldn't have them on the shelf. Practice what you preach, Whole Foods Market.
07/20/2010 10:13:43 AM CDT
Colleen says ...
I beg to differ with Connie's comment about Whole Foods not carrying products with any of these pollutants: Last week I was checking all of your sunscreens and many of them contained the chemicals oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate! It was difficult to find ANY that you carry that only contain the physical sunscreens titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (many contained a mix of both). It should also be noted that oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate are known carcinogens! Wholefoods needs to do better and remove all of these sunscreens from their shelves, regardless if they have the word "natural" slapped onto them!! I had to purchase my (true) natural sunscreen from Amazon because of this.
07/20/2010 9:41:27 AM CDT
paig292 says ...
@Connie None of these ingredients are allowed in our Premium Body Care™. These are the most exceptional personal care products available. They meet the strictest standards for quality sourcing, environmental impact, results and safety. Triclosan and chlorphenesin are disallowed from all products in our stores. Thanks for asking.
07/19/2010 4:56:44 PM CDT
Connie@BhimiBlog says ...
Is it safe to assume WF doesn't allow any of these ingredients in the products they carry as part of their strict product standards?? Thanks.
07/18/2010 11:58:31 AM CDT
vaughnm says ...
@Beckey, you're correct and we've changed it. Thanks!
07/22/2010 10:46:19 AM CDT