Katie E. Boyle, MPH
Use this, Not that. Why toxin-free hand soap is an absolute must-have.
A LOOK AT THE INGREDIENTS IN A COMMON CONVENTIONAL HAND SOAP
COLGATE-PALMOLIVE SOFTSOAP LAVENDER & CHAMOMILE
Ingredients: Water, sodium laureth sulfate, c14-16 olefin sulfonate, lauramide dea, sodium chloride, cocamidopropyl betaine, fragrance, dmdm hydantoin, citric acid, tetrasodium edta, polyquaternium-7, glycerin, peg-7 glyceryl cocoate, benzophenone-4, hydrolyzed silk, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, ext D&C violet no. 2.
INGREDIENT COUNT: at least 17, but likely more, because there is no law requiring Colgate-Palmolive to report all ingredients in the product. So why am I even counting? And secondly, where is the lavender and where is the chamomile?
Not all the ingredients in Softsoap are compatible with human health.
"Fragrance" is a one-word ingredient describing a mix of "proprietary" (secret) compounds that include phthalates. Phthalates are known endocrine system disruptors, meaning they interfere with hormones and reproductive systems of animals (note: humans are animals). And these nasties are also linked to a host of other horrible things like diabetes, obesity and harmful effects on the thyroid.
A little side bar about endocrine disruptors...Results of an experimental study in genetically male frogs exposed to the pesticide and endocrine disruptor atrazine throughout their development showed that 10% of the males developed into into fully functional females capable of mating with male frogs and laying eggs. Let me rephrase: male frogs were exposed to an endocrine disrupting chemical and actually developed into female frogs (instead of male frogs), and then wanted to mate with regular ole healthy male frogs. What is occurring in these poor little frogs is premature testicular cell death and depression/interference in the male gene development. Now, atrazine is a pesticide very widely used in the US, despite having been banned in Europe since 2004. Why isn't it banned in the US?
It gets worse: the ingredient in Softsoap, DMDM HYDANTOIN is a formaldehyde releaser, a preservative that slowly breaks down in the product, releasing formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known allergen. Additionally, IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer who reviews existing research and classifies potentially cancer causing agents into five levels:
Consumer pressure lead to the removal of formaldehyde from some nail polishes (those marked as "three-free" or "five-free"), so why is it still in hand soap, a ubiquitous product used multiple times per day and found on so many sinks in homes, schools, libraries, restaurants, E V E R Y W H E R E?! Outside a trip to Wholefoods or my local yoga studio where natural soaps are graciously provided because of recognition and concern for this issue, the public has no other choice but to use the conventional (=cheapest in bulk) soap and be exposed to these toxins. And, as with the asinine sunscreen debate recently posed, I am NOT asking you to leave the bathroom without washing your hands. Yuck. Germ-free hands are the surest way to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria that make us all sick. As with the sunscreen debate, my reasoning is: if you're in the store or online spending the money anyway, why not look for a product that removes germs without exposing us to harmful chemicals?
For the final blow, the last ingredient I am choosing to explore is "ext D&C violet no. 2," the final ingredient in the list. Ext D&C violet no. 2 is a synthetic colorant derived from bituminous coal. Due to the "carcinogenic properties" of bituminous coal, this ingredient and others like it are continuously tested on animals. And in case you hear the argument that the quantity of this ingredient we're exposed to is so minuscule (it being the last ingredient in the list), just remember that (1) we wash our hands many many times a day, (2) we use many other products with this or many other harmful ingredients in them, and (3) this ingredient and all the others like it has to be produced somewhere and somehow, and it's definitely not produced in tiny, tiny quantities, which brings into play the environmental concerns of these chemicals even existing at all on our planet.
In all seriousness, in the deepest parts of my heart, I wish for more natural products everywhere so that part of our adult children's "normal" when shopping online or in a store includes (or is solely) completely safe products. Several recent steps forward this past year have me feeling that changes to our current "normal" are possible. The FDA recently banned triclosan and 18 other agents from soaps labelled 'antibacterial' because there is no solid evidence that washing with these agents results in any cleaner hands than a good long scrub with warm water and soap. On top of that, some of these agents provide fuel to the pathogens out there that are resistant to antibiotics, a serious, serious concern in modern day public health. The revisions earlier this year to Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that make it much easier for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to evaluate and regulate chemicals is also a step in the right direction. And finally, the Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) asks companies to voluntarily inventory the chemicals they use, publicly report them and then ultimately transition to safer alternatives. Seeing corporations like Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss & Co., GOJO Industries and Walmart, YES, Walmart participating in the CFP is actually astounding and makes me very hopeful for the future.
So as a consumer, you have the power to *think* about these issues (as evidenced by reading this far into this article, so thank you), and you can turn those thoughts into different purchasing patterns. And the corporations will notice even very minute changes in consumers' buying behavior. After reading all this, if you now want to search for safe hand soap or any other personal care product, go to the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database. There, you can type in product names and check out their ratings and make more informed decisions. Or if you want to start by stocking your home, office or store with Boyle's Naturals products, by all means, please do.
A Perfect Alternative: Boyle's Naturals Foaming Hand Soap
Ingredients: distilled water, fragrance free castile soap (water, organic olive oil, organic coconut oil, organic cocoa butter, kukui nut oil, citric acid, Vitamin E), olive oil, pure doTerra brand lavender essential oil.
INGREDIENT COUNT: 8 ingredients (water and olive oil appear twice)
Note: All the ingredients in Boyle's all-natural soap are compatible with human health!