By Karina | August 17, 2009
Last week I read this article about TOXIC SHAMPOOS, and I have to say, it’s really reset how I think about these personal care items. Go on and read it yourself – it’s quite good. Basically, it points out that there are two major aspects to a shampoo: the part that cleans, and the part that makes you feel like it’s cleaning and prettifying. So in order to clean there is generally a detergent, and in order to prettify, there are ingredients added to add shine to your hair, thickness to the shampoo, lather to the product, and color, smell, coatings and other exotic ingredients to make you feel you’re getting the prettiest experience you can. And after adding all these additional factors, you have to put in some heavy duty kills-every-bug type of preservatives to keep your shampoo long-lasting on the shelf.
The problem with all of this is that many of these ingredients are toxic to varying degrees! They are commonly used components in plastics, silicon, and even herbicides. And they’re all fairly unregulated, because the quantities that people use in shampoos are so small they aren’t expected to harm the individual. But then as the article states: “In May, 2008, Jane Houlihan, director of research for the Environmental Working Group, reported on the dangers of cosmetics and personal care products to a House subcommittee. She believes that these products, including shampoo, are the biggest source of human exposure to dangerous chemicals.”
WELL. that’s kind of a big deal. Of course my personal strategy is all things in moderation, and also Tiny Choices all the way! But this article, I will say, definitely gave me pause. I do try to keep dangerous chemicals in check – see the whole moderation thing – and I think more importantly to me is the whole “end of sewer pipe issue” – again, as the article points out:
Mount Sinai Hospital reports that 2.5 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released in the U.S. each year, the equivalent of 37,100 tanker trucks of noxious chemicals. A lot of these chemicals are released from homes every day. Daily, 45 billion gallons of wastewater go down the drain to be treated at one of the 16,000 water treatment plants in the U.S. But wastewater plants are designed to handle only the major pollutants. They can’t remove the diversity of chemicals that humans flush every day.
This is the big problem with the shampoo ingredients: When a man rinses his hair, all the ingredients wash down the drain, carrying the grease to boot. And as one man’s shampoo travels down the pipe, it meets up with a woman’s, and so on, and so on, and so on. At least 350 million gallons of shampoo and its unregulated ingredients flow down U.S. drains every year. And many of these chemicals flow straight into our freshwater systems.
As I’ve written before, there are a bunch of untreated chemicals ending up in our drinking water. And beyond that, there are lots of chemicals turning up at the outlet of waste water treatment plants that are affecting aquatic receptors.I generally try to prevent stuff like that from ending up in the sewers, but I had never considered the types of chemicals that have been washing down my shower drain seriously before! I’d been casually happy to choose “natural” products and sort of assumed they were in general safe to use.
I have to confess, anyway, that I may be kind of obsessed with shampoo myself! After all, last year at about this time I was deep in the middle of a survey of shampoos. I tried out several versions but since then I’ve settled on the J.R. Ligget shampoo bar. Originally I wanted to use a shampoo bar because it’s easy, travels well, and most importantly, it keeps all of those plastic bottles from cycling in and out of my bathroom. But now that I’ve thought about this toxic shampoo article, I am even more happy with my choice – the ingredients listed are so simple: “Olive Oil, Castor Oil, Coconut Oil, Sodium Hydroxide (lye) and pure Spring Water….and a mixture of mild natural fragrances“ This is just soap, plain and simple. It’s a mild soap but there are no additives to make it stiff, or thick, or foamy, or colorful. It doesn’t have any toxic preservatives in it because soap doesn’t go bad. I follow up with a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse, and I’ve found I don’t need much more of a conditioner than that. Occasionally I’ve used Nature’s Gate conditioner, which I can get in bulk at my favorite food co-op, but I just checked their ingredients list and there are lots of unpronounceables in there that I think I need to spend a little time figuring out if it’s worth it or not.The same goes for my deep-conditioning treatment of choice, from Burt’s Bees.
How about your shampoo choices?
[[Photo from flickr user lucepotabile via creative commons license.]]
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