More than 5,000 ingredients are allowed for use in personal care products. Many are identified by government agencies as hazardous, but many others remain untested. Some ingredients with known health hazards are very common in personal care products, both conventional products and alternative ones. We are providing information on some of these common ingredients. In preparing this guide, we screened products and chose those which had the least amount of these hazardous chemicals for our Best and Good sections.
DEA, TEA, MEA – Diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), and monoethanolamine (MEA) are hormone disruptors. They are also known to combine with nitrates to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. If a product contains nitrites (used as a preservative or present as a contaminant not listed on labels) a chemical reaction can occur either during manufacturing or after a product is made. There is no way to know which products contain nitrosamines because government does not require manufacturers to disclose this information on the label.
A 1997 study by the U.S. National Toxicology Program found that these compounds themselves might also be carcinogenic. Repeated skin application of DEA was found to cause liver and kidney damage in animals. The study also discovered that when absorbed through the skin, DEA accumulated in organs. TEA may also cause contact dermatitis in some individuals.
Dioxins – You won’t find dioxin listed on any label. It’s formed as an accidental by-product of some manufacturing processes using chlorine, especially paper bleaching and the creation of plastic. Dioxin is one of the most powerful carcinogens known and accumulates in body fat. Mainstream deodorants and anti-bacterial soaps are suspect. Chlorine bleached tissues, toilet paper and cotton balls can contain dioxin. Plastic bottles may leach dioxin into creams, shampoos and other products we use daily.
DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea and Imidazolidinyl Urea – DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea and imidazolidinyl urea are preservatives that release formaldehyde. It is estimated that 20 per cent of people exposed to this chemical will experience an allergic reaction. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness and loss of sleep. In lab tests, formaldehyde has caused cancer and damaged DNA. Formaldehyde is a known sensitizer. Imidazolidinyl urea may cause contact dermatitis in some individuals.