In my research, I found a recent survey conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation. In that survey, they found that 80% of products entered contained toxic chemicals. Not just a little toxic either. We’re talkin’ chemicals such as formaldehyde, “known to be a human carcinogen,” yet still in our cosmetic and cleansing products.
With the presence of these chemicals we’ve taken on a whole new level of toxicity: In the last 5 years, the amount of formaldehyde needed to embalm a body has been cut in half due to the levels present from our daily intake.* Yet, the promise of a better appearance and a cleaner (& thought to be healthier) life has us hooked on trying the latest and greatest without checking the ingredient list. A certain song comes to mind…
You’re toxic, I’m slipping under.
With a taste of a poison paradise.
I’m addicted to you,
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?
Unfortunately, scanning the ingredient list isn’t easy, nor is it enough.
Cosmetics are the only consumer product in Canada for which the ingredients are considered the publics “right to know,” meaning you’ll find an ingredient list only on cosmetic product labels. The same can’t be said for household cleaners or anything containing “fragrances” or “parfums.” The two latter terms are considered a trade secret and therefore, manufacturers don’t have to disclose the chemicals. Most household cleaners and “fragrances” contain a complex mix of chemicals that are toxic to us and the environment…but we’d never know because we’re not privy to them.**
How is it not our right to know about chemicals in household cleaners? How the hell does the presence of these chemicals pass any health standards?!
For one, the standards are superbly low. Companies are required to notify the Minister of Health of ingredients and their concentrations contained in any cosmetic in Canada… but only until 10 days after it hits the market.
Thankfully, Health Canada does list prohibited and restricted ingredients on the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist - but the Hotlist has no legal authority and cannot be enforced. The cherry on top? The Hotlist restricts only the direct and intentional use of restricted substances meaning chemicals may still be present in cosmetics as by-products. For example, formaldehyde is rarely listed as an ingredient, although many cosmetics contain formaldehyde releasing preservatives.**
Realistically, anything can go into a product, onto the shelf and into the publics hands before Health Canada is notified - and when they are, they can’t enforce anything.
More brilliance (and more sarcasm).
Scanning an ingredient list and trusting manufacturers isn’t enough. They’ve proven untrustworthy by continually placing human carcinogen’s into our cleaners and skin care products. Beyond the effect these chemicals have on us, they also have a huge effect on our environment, especially when most households have them on hand. The toxins have been around for too long; the effects of our past use has merged into our present and our future. The time for change is now.
Here’s my deal:
I used to think like this: “What’s the worst that could happen? I’d rather that, than waste hours worrying.” I’ve changed.
In my quest to tell the truth, I realized that I care. I can no longer fool myself into thinking I don’t have time to care. I stopped ignoring my thoughts about being a powerless individual (thanks Dr. Suess):
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
I can no longer support companies that use toxic chemicals because to me, using chemicals that damage the future is like stealing; stealing the future from anyone that might inhabit it. It’s a crime.
Here’s how my quest begun. It was and still is slow, but it’s progressive, including intermittent screw ups:
I first educated myself re: the toxins in cosmetic and cleaning supplies and how to avoid them. For cosmetics, it’s a scan of the ingredient list with certain names in mind. Don’t forget to avoid anything that says “fragrance” or “parfums” as well.
- A good start re: what to look for on cosmetic product labels can be found here.
- Cosmetifique iPhone app is another way to gain knowledge. Simply type in an ingredient and it’ll give you a green, yellow, orange or red dot in response. While it isn’t all in English, it’s easy to understand thanks to the colour coding. This will allow you to take a step in the right direction by avoiding products with toxicity and by doing so, sending a message to the manufacturer that you’re looking for change.
I personally find scrolling ingredient lists overwhelming. I simply can’t memorize all the names to watch for, often feeling like I’ll miss an ingredient. When I’m not shopping in the right place, I worry that I’ll support a company who makes one product free of toxins, but has a whole line of others that don’t meet the same standards. Since I decided I care, I can’t support that.
Choose your shopping location wisely. Shopper’s Drug Mart & Sephora hardly carry products without toxic chemicals. I couldn’t find anything that I was comfortable using or supporting down their aisles.
- Locations that support Natural & Organic ingredients are good options such as Noah’s (a higher priced option), Essence of Life, Qi Natural Foods.
There are great options that can be ordered thru representative’s or online.
- Skin Essence Organics is one of my favs. It works wonders for the skin, is 100% Organic and it’s Canadian (for those of you in Canada - bonus!).
- Norwex is a great option for household cleaners that are eco-friendly, without the chemicals.
These are great options, but buying anything packaged also adds to our recycling (or lack thereof) in the world.
I use a few pre-made products from Skin Essence and Arbonne, but other products such as moisturizer, hand soap, dish soap and household cleaners, Caio makes at home. Yes Caio. His passion is the kitchen and he took to this idea nicely. I make the labels.
Here are some of our favs, but there are others to try as well.
Caio-Sonoma Handsoap (easy!):
- 1 quarter cup Castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s) or vegetable glycerine.
- 1 cup of your favourite smelling, strongly made tea. Caio used lavendar, lemon, some rosemary and peppermint. (You’ll need at least 2 tablespoons of tea leaves per cup, left to steep for 10-15 minutes.
Caio’s Clean Day Dish Soap (easy!):
- 3 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon of washing soda (sodium carbonate)
- ½ cup of castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s)
- Your fav scented oil (approx 10 drops)
In 1 warm cup of water, dissolve the washing soda. Mix with the castile soap in your chosen container. Add your scented oil. Add 1-2 more cups of water (tbd on your container size and strength desired).
Brazilian Coconut Moisturizer:
This recipe calls for a bit of special attention to get the consistency we like. Here’s the approximate proportions:
- 2 cups Shea butter
- ½ cup avocado oil
- ¾ cup coconut oil
- 12 drops of your favourite scented oil (Caio uses Lavendar)
- 20 drops of Vitamin E oil
At a low heat, melt the coconut oil and slowly add the Shea butter while stirring. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Let it cool in an open container - no pump bottles as this stuff is not a thin consistency. To apply, take a small amount into your hand, warm it slightly and apply where needed. It’s an awesome moisturizer - perfect for winter dryness.
*This stat is from a close friend of mine, also a Norwex consultant.
**Information sourced from here.