Archives for category: Hidden Chemicals

From The Boston Channel:

With two-thirds of Americans now overweight or obese, new research suggests there may be more to it than poor diet and not enough exercise. Hidden chemicals, called obesogens, are the building blocks of everyday household items.

Researchers say they’re wreaking havoc on our bodies by disrupting our hormonal systems, which affect fat cells and gene function.

“Certain cells that would normally differentiate into cells that would develop into, say, muscle tissue, or connective tissue, would change and develop into fat tissue or fat cells,” said Dr. Theresa Piotrowski, medical director of Lahey Clinic’s Medical and Surgical Weight Loss Center.Obesogens include now infamous bisphenol-A, or BPA, phthalates, which are synthetic chemicals found in plastics, and Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which is found in non-stick and stain resistant products. Obesogens are also found in plastic shower curtains, canned goods and cosmetics.

More . . .

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From The New York Times: When Wrinkle-Free Clothing Also Means Formaldehyde Fumes

The iron, that relic of households past, is no longer required to look neat and freshly pressed. Why bother when retailers like Nordstrom offer crisp “wrinkle-free finish” dress shirts and L. L. Bean sells chinos that are “great right out of the dryer.”

Though it is not obvious from the label, the antiwrinkle finish comes from a resin that releases formaldehyde, the chemical that is usually associated with embalming fluids or dissected frogs in biology class.

And clothing is not the only thing treated with the chemical. Formaldehyde is commonly found in a broad range of consumer products and can show up in practically every room of the house. The sheets and pillow cases on the bed. The drapes hanging in the living room. The upholstery on the couch. In the bathroom, it can be found in personal care products like shampoos, lotions and eye shadow. It may even be in the baseball cap hanging by the back door. . . .

“From a consumer perspective, you are very much in the dark in terms of what clothing is treated with,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization. “In many ways, you’re in the hands of the industry and those who are manufacturing our clothing. And we are trusting them to ensure they are using the safest materials and additives.”

The United States does not regulate formaldehyde levels in clothing, most of which is now made overseas. Nor does any government agency require manufacturers to disclose the use of the chemical on labels. So sensitive consumers may have a hard time avoiding it (though washing the clothes before wearing them helps).

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, recently examined the levels and potential health risks of formaldehyde as required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

Most of the 180 items tested, largely clothes and bed linens, had low or undetectable levels of formaldehyde that met the voluntary industry guidelines based on standards in Japan, which are among the most stringent. Still, about 5.5 percent of the items — primarily wrinkle-free shirts and pants, easy-care pillow cases, crib sheets and a boy’s baseball hat — exceeded the most stringent standards of 75 parts per million, for products that touch the skin. (Levels must be undetectable, or less than 20 parts per million for children under 3 years, and can be as high as 300 parts per million for products like outerwear that do not come into direct contact with the skin.) . . . .

A 2006 study that tested people with suspected skin allergies found that 9 percent of those tested were allergic to formaldehyde, but not all of those people will necessarily have a bad reaction to various compounds that release formaldehyde, said Dr. Peter Schalock, an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School who runs a skin allergy patch testing clinic.

Critics of the government’s study say it could have incorporated a wider array of textiles, like drapes and upholstery. Others are calling for a closer look at the potential cumulative effects of exposure.

“Given all of the things we buy new that can release formaldehyde in our house, all of those things contribute,” said Urvashi Rangan, director of technical policy at Consumers Union, who noted that the Environmental Protection Agency was currently developing formaldehyde emissions regulations for pressed-wood products. “Over all, minimizing your exposure is a good idea.”

As for ridding clothes of wrinkles, she said, “We’re all for irons, to be honest.”

More. . .

Picture from Orvis.com

MSCNBC.com: Frizz or formaldehyde? Trendy ‘do poses a hairy dilemma

“Suffer for beauty” has been taken to a whole new level with recent controversy surrounding a trendy hair treatment called the Brazilian Blowout.

The product, used in pricey salons, turns frizzy, unmanageable locks into the luxurious pin-straight looks made popular by celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow.

The catch? Tests conducted by the state of Oregon earlier this month determined that the product contains unsafe levels of formaldehyde — as in, embalming fluid — a known carcinogen.

But that’s not deterring some from the pursuit of fabulous wash-and-wear locks.

“Chemicals are a way of life now,” says Stefeny Anderson, a 36-year-old event planner from Renton, Wash., who got her first Brazilian Blowout two weeks ago in an effort to tame “corkscrew curls” that frizz at the slightest hint of rain (a given in Washington state). “It’s not like you’re putting it in your hair every day.”

Introduced at salons a few years ago, the Brazilian Blowout costs about $250. But after the two-hour treatment — which involves coating the hair with the chemical, then flat-ironing it — coarse, kinky hair becomes soft, smooth and straight for two to three months. Sort of an anti-perm, the Brazilian Blowout has been touted as more effective and less time-consuming than other hair-straightening methods such as conventional relaxers, Japanese thermal processing or other keratin-based treatments (there are several available), although concerns have been raised about the product’s possible formaldehyde content in the past, when Allure magazine did an exposé.

These concerns soon dissipated, though, once the company reformulated the products and began distributing bottles labeled “formaldehyde-free.”

Formaldehyde-and-seek
Earlier this month, though, Oregon Health & Science University issued two public alerts after tests performed by the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found up to 10.6 percent formaldehyde in the product (.2 percent formaldehyde is considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel).

Brazilian Blowout disputes the finding. “We have no formaldehyde in our formula,” spokesperson Dana Supnick said.

In other tests a couple of weeks ago, Canada’s health department found up to 12 percent formaldehyde and warned people to stop using it, citing consumer complaints of “burning eyes, nose, and throat, breathing difficulties, and one report of hair loss associated with use of the product.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, formaldehyde has been classified as a known human carcinogen with research suggesting an association between formaldehyde exposure in workers and several cancers including nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia. Short-term exposure is no picnic, either; adverse effects include watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, wheezing, nausea and skin irritation.

Health complaints from stylists who’ve performed the Brazilian Blowout on clients have prompted at least one class action lawsuit against the manufacturer. The FDA has also announced it’s received “a number of inquiries from consumers and salon professionals concerning the safety of this product” and are currently looking into the issue.

More.


More from The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

New York Magazine‘s blog, The Cut: Finally, People Are Protesting the Fragrance Abercrombie Uses to Constantly Gas Its Stores

You could walk by any Abercrombie or Hollister store blindfolded and know, from the gusts of suffocating, cologne-saturated air, just where you were. The company’s disturbing practice of pumping cologne through stores’ ventilation systems has already hurt business in Japan’s first Abercrombie, as well as stores in the States, probably, since plenty of people don’t even want to stand near an open Abercrombie door for more than a few seconds because of the stench. Organizations are finally mobilizing to battle this terribly unfair practice, which they believe could put helpless consumers in danger. . . .

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is also joining the fight. They say Abercrombie’s Fierce scent is made with eleven “secret chemicals” not listed on the label, some of which would lead to headaches, wheezing, asthma, and contact dermatitis. One such chemical could, ironically, harm male reproductive hormones.

“A&F’s image is that of the ideal strong young hunky man, yet Fierce has diethyl phthalate in it, shown to be linked to harm the manliest hormone,” says Alex Peaslee, co-president of Teens Turning Green, NYC, about the chemicals purported effects on testosterone. “It seems that the young guys are receiving exactly the opposite of what they hoped to gain by shopping there,” added Peaslee.

Abercrombie has responded, saying their ingredient-listing practices don’t violate any regulations. . .

Read more here.

More from Stylelist here.

More from Teens Turning Green here.

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