Monday, February 6, 2012

GO CHECK YOUR SHAMPOO LABEL

Research published last month in the Journal of Applied Toxicology (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jat.1786/abstract;jsessionid=D715345619D8FCC958CF30A4C10424A3.d01t04) indicates I’ve been right to boycott products containing parabens.

Examining human breast tissue collected from forty mastectomies for primary breast cancer between 2005 and 2008, scientists found parabens in virtually all samples. Paraben levels were highest in the upper-outer breast quadrants, where a disproportionate incidence of breast cancer occurs.

The technical name for this class of chemicals (including metaparaben and propylparaben) is para-amino benzoic acid. My inner cynic, forceful as ever, told me manufacturers changed its name to “paraben” a few years ago, when the public was beginning to realize benzoic acid was carcinogenic. “Paraben” is, after all, a friendlier name, more like something in your spice rack: a spoon of curry, a pinch of paraben. 

Parabens are in many shampoos, moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solutions, cosmetics, toothpastes, and processed foods. Serving as preservatives, parabens extend shelf life, not yours.

Does this report mean these cancers were caused by parabens? Not necessarily, but the association is too convincing to dismiss. For some reason incomprehensible to my Canadian relatives, we Americans don’t mind ingesting questionable chemicals until they’re absolutely proven poisonous—not easy to prove, considering cancer’s long gestation, our concurrent exposure to thousands of chemicals, and the FDA’s domination by a paraben-pushing industry. The Canadians have incorporated what they call the “Precautionary Principle” into law. Viewed through this lens, chemicals must be shown to be safe before they’re allowed into the market. So as you might expect, not as many make it as in the U.S.

My point here isn’t to legislate against carcinogenic chemicals. That window’s closed. The people who make a buck off them will bribe—excuse me, I mean lobby—legislators to keep them legal. I’m only telling you this so you’ll consider activating your own Precautionary Principle, and decline buying toxins, period.

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this information with all. just keep update the blog with useful information.
    John Wintermute

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  2. IMO there should be an "approved for sale in Canada" logo, that such products could display in the U.S., to enhance consumers' freedom to choose.

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    1. I agree that there should be an "approved for sale in Canada" note on labels. Unfortunately, the Monsanto Corporation doesn't agree, and it buys more legislative influence than you and I combined. However, the market really does speak, and when we simply stop buying crap, it won't be sold anymore. Please tell your friends.

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    2. But if it's voluntary, why wouldn't a company want to display it on products that have Canadian approval?

      It seems to me that it'd benefit the company - and it would be the least onerous way of freeing consumers to easily make an informed choice.

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  3. I'm going to check my shampoo immediately! Yikes!

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  4. Thanks! I wish it wasn't so hard to avoid these kinds of things.

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    1. Yup, it’s hard to avoid them. The FDA’s term for the whole class is “Carcinogens Represented As Products,” or CRAP. We’re rich in CRAP. One reason it’s so universal is because its presence is often omitted from labels. Massive corporate pressure has militated, for example, against labeling products that have been genetically engineered or irradiated.

      In this atmosphere, don’t expect thorough, honest labeling. Manufacturers are scared silly to provide it, and legislators only follow their employers’ instructions (and who are their employers these days?). So it has to be up to us. Like Dixie commented, “Yikes!”

      I think the most potent question we can ask is why we allow such wide and baldfaced “consumer abuse.” Maybe we feel we somehow deserve it. In fact, if we didn’t feel that way, why would we allow ourselves and our children to marinate in the poisons that taint our food, air, water, building materials, cleaning products, cosmetics, and even some medications? If we were serious about protecting ourselves, we’d be at the barricades waving pikes and clubs.

      Thank you for allowing me to vent. Now, back to my everyday serenity.

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    2. > why we allow such wide and baldfaced “consumer abuse.”

      Shades of Household Tips from Warrior Mom (recommended reading; h/t Sierra Voices)

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  5. Thanks for the information. Upper-outer breast quadrant got my attention - yup, that was the location.

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