Cleaner Living: Cancer in the Sandbox

Apr 25, 2012 by

So we bloggers have our own little community where we ask questions of one another and bounce ideas around:

“When did your little one start sleeping through the night?”

“Is such and such normal for this developmental milestone?”

“Any suggestions for play sand that doesn’t cause cancer?”

Wait, what?!?!

This was a question put out to us by our blogger Stephanie.   For the last 2 weeks, her daughters have been happily playing in their sandbox, when she noticed this warning on the bag:

“Oh yeah, I’ll just make sure she wears her RESPIRATOR while she plays. No big.” – Stephanie

This was concerning to a lot of us.  My kids love the beach and the sand, and I know at least Ava’s daycare has a sandbox and indoor sand tables, so this was of great concern to me.  I asked Steph if I could write a Cleaner Living post about this and she graciously agreed.

Cleaner Living: Toxin #12- Nitrosamines

Jan 30, 2012 by

Well, we have made it to the 12th day… But no Partridge in a Pear Tree here, we are learning about Nitrosamines today!

Nitrosamines are not actually an ingredient.  They are a compound created when nitrites and amino acids (which often occur from proteins) are combined.  This combination can occur in very acidic settings, such as the human stomach, or in high temperature settings found in manufacturing and cooking processes.  It can also be found as in impurity in 54 ingredients listed on the Skin Deep database.

Nitrosamines are considered a possible carcinogen by the EPA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).  They are banned from being used in cosmetics in Canada and the EU.

Nitrosamines are not just an impurity found in cosmetic ingredients, they can be found in the foods we eat, especially ones very popular with finicky eaters, aka, our kids.

Cleaner Living: Toxin #11 BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole)

Jan 27, 2012 by

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)- not to be confused with beta hydroxy acid (also abbreviated BHA)- is a preservative found in food and cosmetics.  It is used to keep fats from going rancid and to preserve shelf life of cosmetics.  Most common foods it can be found in butter, meats, cereals, chewing gum, baked goods, snack foods, dehydrated potatoes, and beer, as well as in animal feeds.  It was found on EWG’s Skin Deep Database in 307 products, including popular cosmetics (especially lipstick and eye shadow) by Cover Girl, L’Oreal, NARS, and Revlon, as well in shave gels, hemorrhoid cream, and some Desitin Diaper creams.

The FDA has deemed BHA safe for human consumption in food at levels not to exceed .02% of the fat content of a particular food.  To my knowledge there is no such concentration standard for cosmetics or personal care products.

However, The National Toxicology Program has deemed BHA as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

Cleaner Living: Toxin #10- Formaldehyde

Jan 26, 2012 by


Yes, the stuff they use for embalming bodies to temporarily prevent decomposition can be found in your personal care products.

Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, skin irritant, and can bring on or worsen respiratory ailments, such as asthma.  Personal care products that contain formaldehyde expose its users to this chemical through inhaling off-gas, ingestion, or absorption through the skin.  Most studies of the link between formaldehyde and cancer deal with the inhalation of the toxin, while there are fewer studies done on absorption or ingestion.  Formaldehyde can be found in nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, and some hair gels.

But Dena, formaldehyde is found as an ingredient in only 6 products on the EWG Skin Deep Database.

Yes, however there are 3 other ways formaldehyde gets into our products.

Renaming, reformulating

Cleaner Living: Toxin #4- Coal Tar

Jan 18, 2012 by

Um, what?

I hadn’t heard of this one until I started researching.

Coal Tar in personal care products is the same as the stuff they use in pavement sealant, just in lower doses.  It is a known human carcinogen, with industrial coal tar recently being banned in Washington after it started turning up in ordinary house dust as well as in streams, lakes and other waterways at levels that concern government researchers. It is banned for use in cosmetics in the European Union. It is also a photosensitizer, making skin more at risk for burning and overexposure in sunlight.

As for its use in personal care products, it gets a big whopping 10 on the hazard scale that EWG uses.  Coal tar used to be found in  dark-colored hair dyes , but has since been removed from those products (though what they use now may not be any better) since it caused allergic reactions in some people (the cancer thing is just icing).  It is, however, still being used in dandruff shampoo such as Neutrogena T-Gel Shampoo and some psoriasis creams.

Page 1 of 212