Pink Predators: Common carcinogens in your home

Breast cancer awareness - the pink ribbon walk
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Reading Time: 12 minutes

Update: Breast cancer rates are alarmingly on the rise and a few months ago, one of our close friends who is in her early 40s started 12 rounds of Chemo after detecting a tumerous lump in the left breast after a routine examination.

Krya regularly gets Cancer survivor customers who come to us for skin and hair products after the dreaded disease + even more dreaded treatment. Many of them have a simple question: “Why me”. Most of them are in good physical health, they exercise, take care of their diet and many dont even have a family history of this disease. Yet they contract it. Why is this so?

This post helps answer this question and looks at the extremely worrying effects of 3 possible carcinogenic chemicals which are commonly used in beauty, skin care, hair care and household cleaning products. Read on.

The dreaded “C” word:

In Oct 2014, I attended a meeting of women entrepreneurs. On the sidelines, we were invited to a breast cancer awareness campaign organized by one of the entrepreneurs who had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. This young lady is a passionate advocate of early diagnosis of breast cancer. As a part of the worldwide pink ribbon day, her team conducted awareness camps for women employed in the major IT parks in Chennai.

As she spoke, a palpable tremor ran through the women in the room. Many had some encounter with the dreaded “c” word, having watched a loved one suffer.

I lost a favourite aunt in 2009 to breast cancer, or perhaps the aggressive chemotherapy given to her. I watched my bright, active danseuse Aunt shrivel away, lose her hair, her energy and eventually her life after four repeated chemotherapy assaults on her body. Breast cancer is one of the most common and fast growing cancers in India today and forms nearly half of all the cancer detected in India . In 2012, 70,000 Indian women died due to breast cancer.

The Pink Ribbon movement

In 1985 in the US , the breast cancer awareness month (BCAM) was created as a partnership between American Cancer Society & a pharma company that is now part of Astra Zeneca. The main aim of the BCAM is to promote mammography as the weapon of choice to diagnose and fight breast cancer. Such partnerships are fraught with ethical dilemmas. Astra Zeneca is the manufacturer of the breast cancer blockbuster drugs Arimidex and Tamoxifen. Some have argued the overly visible and alarmist tone of breast cancer awareness pushes for over reporting and aggressive promotion of the treatment which are the drugs. Worse still, it is now understood that X-ray mammography to detect breast cancer is dangerous and is a carcinogen.

The breast cancer awareness movement came into its own in the early 1990’s with promotion of the pink ribbon as the symbol. In 1993, Evelyn Lauder, Senior Vice-president of Estee Lauder and a  breast cancer survivor herself founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and widely popularized the pink ribbon as its symbol. In that year, Estee Lauder make up counters handed out 1.5 million pink ribbons with a information card describing the steps to construct a self breast exam.

Pink marketing for Breast cancer awareness

Since then, the pink ribbon has become one of the most visible symbols of cause related marketing across the world. Research shows that given parity cost and quality, more than 50% of consumers would switch to a brand associated with a good cause. Going by the popularity of the pink ribbon, breast cancer certainly seems to be a popular and profitable cause for the brands piggybacking on this cause.

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From NFL costumes to cosmetics, from shoe sellers to cricketers, the pink ribbon has engulfed them all during the awareness month. While many critics and naysayers tend to dismiss this as pink washing, there are positives. Millions of dollars have been raised from these campaigns due to which early warning signs are now part of the general lexicon.

But one critical issue continues to trouble the general public.

Despite the top management support, and marketing muscle thrown behind breast cancer awareness, several cosmetic companies who support this cause, continue to use ingredients that are suspected to be carcinogenic. In many cases these suspect ingredients have been found in breast cancer tissues.
Think about it.
The very brands that raise money for awareness continue to use suspected carcinogens in their products.

Pink washing?

In 2013, 15 beauty brands devoted to defeating breast cancer got together to start an offshoot campaign called “we are stronger together”. But according to EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetic database, 12 of these companies, including Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, and Estee Lauder & Origins sell a wide assortment of cosmetics that contain known carcinogens and other toxics.

The carcinogenic impact of these toxic ingredients is relevant to the study of what causes breast cancer. Research suggests that genetic causes form only 5 – 10 % to breast cancer develops. 90 – 95% of cancer exposure is thought to develop from a series of environmental causes including radiation exposure, excess alcohol consumption, and of course exposure to dozens of carcinogenic chemicals.

The Krya series on toxics

This Krya series on toxic chemicals in household products has been developed as a result of hundreds of queries from concerned users, very often in categories where Krya does not have any product yet. We are asked for our opinion on product categories on the potential hazards of chemicals and more importantly, recommendations for safer natural alternatives.

For the last 4 years on the krya blog, we have maintained our stand that the consumer products industry in India is dangerously under-regulated. Many products are sold widely with little understanding of long term human safety or environmental protection. In our personal experience, we have seen that R&D in global consumer products companies operates in silos, with a narrow focus on cost and immediate consumer gratification. Their safety standards are decades old. They continue to play with the boundaries of safety and often wait for a public outcry or a government order to cut back on toxic ingredients. This laissez-faire attitude has introduced to the trusting public a set of new, potentially dangerous, hydra headed monsters.

The Pink Predators

 Parabens : common possible carcinogen

Parabens are a big family of preservatives found widely in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries. and have been around for nearly 100 years. They are the industry standard for anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Parabens have been detected in urine, serum, breast milk and seminal fluid, but the most worrying fact has been their detection in breast tissue from patients with breast cancer. In one important north American study, it was calculated that the average person is exposed to 76 mg of parabens every day, with 50 mg from cosmetics, 25 mg from pharmaceuticals and 1 mg from food.

Research from the CDC’s National Centre for Environmental Health found that the blood of over 60% of the children surveyed during the National Health and Nutrition examination survey was contaminated with more than 8 toxins including significant levels of 3 kinds of parabens.

One alarming property of parabens is their ability to enter the body through the skin, something that most people are not aware of. This has been widely studied in underarm cosmetics like deodorants and whiteners. Breast cancer research shows a higher concentration of parabens in the upper lateral breast near the armpit corresponding to the use of deodorants which contain parabens.

3deo caution

After the work of many consumer awareness groups like EWG, Johnson & Johnson pledged to remove both parabens and formaldehyde from its baby care and adult skin care products by 2015 including brands like Aveeno & Neutrogena. But Johnson & Johnson continues to re-assert the safety of parabens and made this decision to eliminate parabens only to assuage certain consumer groups.

Globally most governments have not re-examined the safety of parabens. Some outliers are the Danish government which has banned the use of products for children below 3 years. In India,  parabens are commonly used in cosmetic and other applications.

While we can go back and forth on the safety of parabens , we certainly do not want to be learn 30 or 40 years later that the early researchers who warned against the use of parabens were absolutely right. This is exactly what happened in the global debate on smoking and lung cancer. While the debate raged, many were smoking their way to cancer hoping that the warnings would turn out to be false alarms.

On the other hand it is important to note that parabens do not have any beneficial or therapeutic whatsoever to humans. So the question to ask is this, are there safe alternatives to parabens ? The answer is YES! Paraben free products are available globally and are waiting for you to discover them.

Phthalates :

Phthalates are chemicals used as plasticizers, to make physical products pliant and flexible – they are widely found, in vinyl flooring, raincoats, adhesives, detergents, nail polishes, soaps, toys and skin care lotions. For example, DEHP, a common phthalate, is added to PVC at concentrations between 1 – 40% to make it soft and pliant. Unplasticized PVC without DEHP is hard and brittle.

Phthalates are physically bound into plastics using a heating process, which means that they are very easily released into the environment when this physical bond breaks. This happens in many innocuous ways when phthalate containing products are kept near heat or exposed to strong solvents. For example : when phthalate containing plastic dishes are washed with harsh chemical cleaners.

Phthalates are cheap and versatile: so they are found in products as diverse as children’s toys, and utensils, coatings in pills and nutritional supplements, emulsifying and suspending agents in lotions and shampoos, binders and gelling agents in liquid detergent and dishwash. Other personal care products that contain phthalates are liquid soap, perfumes, deodorant sprays, hair sprays, eye shadow, nail colours and moisturizers.

When used in vinyl flowing, phthalates like DEHP easily leach into the atmosphere, contaminating indoor household air. Once released this toxic air can be inhaled by babies crawling on the floor or pets. A 2008 Bulgarian study found that higher dust concentrations of DEHP was found in the homes of children with asthma and allergies compared to non- asthmatic children.

While a lot of the present phthalate research focuses on infants and children, it is believed women are at a much higher risk of phthalate exposure due to their higher consumption of cosmetic products and exposure to household cleaning products.

Recent (2010) in-vivo and observational studies show an association between phthalate exposure and breast cancer. Also, phthalates like many other endocrine disrupters are both bio-accumulative and additive – when mixed with other classes of chemicals like BPA or nonyl-phenols, they exhibit a deadly chemical synergistic effect. Essentially this means that all these toxic chemicals gang up against your body with a multiplier effect.

2Nail paints caution

A recent published study for the first time studied the positive correlation of DEP (diethyl phthalate), with breast cancer. DEP is found in a high proportion of perfume carrying products like deodorants, hair sprays and moisturizing lotions because of its ability to make fragrance “linger” for a long time. DEP is also used as denaturant in alcohol and is found worryingly in products like mouthwash.

Endocrine-disrupter effect of Phthalates

Why are phthalates dangerous to human health? Simply put, they are endocrine disruptors. Their behaviour can mimic endocrine hormones like estrogen , which really confuses our bodies , leading to disease.

In 2000, Puerto Rican scientists reported an association between DEHP & premature breast development in young girls signifying an early onset of puberty. At the same time the CDC in the United States tested blood samples of 289 Adult Americans and found phthalates in all of them. The levels of some phthalates, including DEHP in women of childbearing age far exceeded government mandated safe levels to prevent birth defects.

Two studies published in Environmental Health perspectives in 2003 found that pregnant women with phthalate exposure on average give birth one week earlier than those without significant phthalate exposure.

A 2006 study among Indian women with endometriosis showed a significantly high level of phthalates in their blood – this included phthalates which are restricted for use in the EU like DEHP, DBT, BBP and DnOP.

Regulations around Phthalates:

Most restriction around phthalates today focuses on children. The EU has restricted the use of certain phthalates like DEHP, DBP, in children’s toys from 1999. Phthalates like DINP, DIDP and DNOP are restricted in toys that can be put into a child’s mouth. The restriction allows these phthalates to be present only upto 0.1% of the plasticized mass of the toy.A similar act was passed in the United States in 2008.

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Phthalates in the Cauvery river:

A study published this year studied water and sediment samples of the Cauvery River, one of South India’s major rivers. A two year soil sediment and water study found DEHP in 92% of the water samples and DEP and DMP in every water sample. Similarly 94% of soil sediment samples also contained DEHP. While the contamination percentage was said to be below USEPA guidelines for water, the soil concentration exceeded this guideline.

The Cauvery river basin covers Karnataka, Kerala , Tamilnadu and Pondicherry.  It is the source for both an extensive irrigation and hydroelectric system and also supplies drinking water for many towns and villages. Bangalore, Mysore and Mandya depend almost completely on the Cauvery for their drinking water. In this situation, the fact that some of the most toxic phthalates like DEHP have so comprehensively contaminated this river cannot be ignored.

Nonylphenols (NP ) and  Nonyl phenol ethoxylate (NPE) :

Nonyl phenols come from a class of chemicals called Alkyphenols. Alkylphenols, including nonyl phenol are precursors to chemical detergents , and are used as additive to fuels, lubricants and other polymers.

All alkylphenols including Nonylphenol ethoxylate are xenoestrogens. They mimic the effect of estrogen in the body and they can disrupt the normal process of reproduction. Xenoestrogens can increase the growth of the endometrium, leading to endometriosis, and can also increase breast cancer tissue in tissue culture studies.

Precocious puberty or puberty among young girls below 8 years is one of the effects of Xeno estrogens. Studies across America, Europe and Asia suggest that irrespective of race and economic conditions, the earlier onset of puberty is attributed to the environmental chemical exposure. Precocious puberty has been studied to lead to significant psychological distress, poor self image and poor self esteem in a young girl. It has also shown to lead to reduced adult height, paediatric & adult obesity, gynaecological disorders like endometriosis, poly cystic ovarian disorder and infertility.

Nonylphenols are chemicals used in laundry and dish detergents, cleaners and emulsifiers, paints, pesticides and in personal wash products. Since the discovery of Nonyl phenol in 1940, its production has been growing every year – it is now a high production volume chemical, with 100 million- 500 million pounds of NPE being produced globally every year.

4synthetic dishwash

Nonylphenol persists in aquatic environments and can take months or longer to degrade in water and soil. Because Nonylphenol is used in so many cleaning products which “go down the drain” like dishwash products and detergent products, it is a ready contaminant into sewage and water supply. Nonyl phenol bio-accumulates inside the body, and is a potent endocrine disrupter.

Synergistic effect of Nonyl Phenol:

As already mentioned, one of the most troubling problems of ingredients like Nonyl phenol which are used as filler in pesticides for their “inert” properties is their ability to work synergistically with other chemicals and multiply their toxic effect on humans.

Current regulations around Nonyl Phenol:

The EU has eliminated the use of Nonyl Phenol and its ethoxylate in most industrial and product sectors. Canada has implemented a pollution prevention plant to drastically reduce the use of NP/NPE.  The US EPA plans to encourage voluntary phase of using NP/NPE in industrial laundry detergents.

In India this is not yet regulated.

Products that contain Nonyl Phenol & Nonyl Phenol Ethoxylate:

Used as a surfactant in shaving creams, detergents, dishwash, hair dyes, hair styling products and pesticides. It is difficult to ascertain if your brand contains this chemical as it is a feedstock chemical which is usually unlisted.

A quick Sum -up: 3 possible carcinogenic chemicals to avoid at home:

Pink could be the colour of happiness. But it is not , in the case of beauty or consumer products, especially those marketed with a pink ribbon to provide awareness and support for breast cancer.  Our article discusses just 3 kinds of toxic chemicals that are commonly found in Indian homes today in their cleaning, skin or hair care products. The US FDA lists over 100,000 industrial chemicals in use today!

Parabens, phthalates and Nonyl Phenol and its ethoxylate find their way into several of the products we use for ourselves, our children and in our home. The worrying problem behind these chemicals is that they come to us in innocuous and friendly looking products like that bottle of nail pain, our favourite brand of deodorant, or simply, our dishwashing liquid that promised to carry the power of 100 lemons in each drop.

As most of these formulations do not declare what exactly goes into them, we would never be able to tell if our favorite brand of synthetic shampoo is actually free from parabens and phthaltes or not. Hence in the spirit of extreme caution and avoiding adding any manner of toxicity to the body, we advise a through and deep detox of all synthetics from your personal and home care list.

Specifically for those trying to conceive, pregnant women, women with a family history of PCOD and endometriosis and breast cancer should avoid using synthetic deodorants, nail paints, synthetic shampoos, bodywashes and shower gels, and also industrial cleaning products like detergent and dishwash products. A wide variety of alternatives exist which are completely natural and avoid using such potentially dangerous synthetics.

Having read this post, you may be left with a deep feeling of “why”. Why do companies use these chemicals? Is it out of malice? Are they out to get us? Are they as unaware as we are? Our next post will look at common myths and facts when formulating household products. Hopefully some more answers will emerge there.

This article is a part of Krya’s series on toxics in household and personal care products. Through this series, we hope to inform, educate and inspire you to look around your home and detox it and yourself from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today.

 

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Foaming shampoo, Itching soap : a label lowdown

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Reading Time: 10 minutes

The Krya post yesterday shared a piece written by Dr.Anupama Santosh, an Ayurvedic vaidya at Shrestha Ayurvedic centre . In this piece she shared her concerns about herbal products and some of the issues she faces while recommending authentic natural products to her consumers.

We choose to focus on this important issue raised by Dr.Anupama in the blog today at Krya.

The modern soap and the modern shampoo find no place in the tradition of Indian skin and haircare. The traditional medicine pharmacopeia is vast, detailed and uses thousands of cleansing herbs and lists formulations that range from cures for baldness to simple hair growth.

This does not mean Indian traditional medicine is simplistic or primitive as is often assumed. Many of the discoveries and procedures described by Acharya Sushruta and Acharya Charaka (the fathers of Ayurveda) are still in use today.

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For example, a facial reconstructive technique described by Acharya Sushruta 2500 years ago uses parts of the forehead and cheek to reconstruct the nose. This procedure was developed as cutting off the nose was a common punishment in that era which necessitated the development of aesthetic surgery. This technique is still in use today and is now called the “Indian Rhinoplasty technique”.

So how did mass produced soap and shampoo evolve ?

The technique for producing a basic soap is ancient. Archaeological excavations and records suggest that it was in use in Ancient Babylon 2500 years ago. The Ebers papyrus , which dates back to 1500BC, also mentions the use of soap in cleaning textiles. Again we see evidence of the use of soap in the Roman world, where it was again used to launder garments.

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If you are seeing a pattern here, stay with me. We move over to Florence in medieval times where soap making has now become more evolved with the addition of perfumes distilled with knowledge brought in by the Islamic empire. Italy and France begin to compete with each other to produce finer grade soaps.

Soapmaking now reaches England. Soapmaking becomes a household art, guarded jealously by the main housekeeper of the Castle and is made in the still room.

So we have reached a point when soapmaking has become a household cottage industry. The fat trimmings from domestic meat of the animals raised for consumption would be used without wasting to be made into a cleaning soap. For the component of lye, water leached through wood ash would be used as a precursor to the commercially available Sodium Hydroxide we use. The Romans were much more economical – they simply used human urine from the public toilets, which is strong in ammonia to make Ammonium Hydroxide to make their soap.

Now here are 2 interesting facts: Soap originally started out as a textile laundering product and was generally considered extremely harsh for skin use as it was very alkaline in its pH. This alkaline nature made sense when it was used exclusively on textiles as this would help effectively cleanse out grease and dirt from wool, linen and other difficult to care for textiles.

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When soap was finally adopted for personal use, it was primarily adopted by countries which experienced extreme cold and where citizens bathed very rarely.

For example, England had a day called Shrive Tuesday which fell in early summer, which was a day when the peasants would have an annual bath. For this annual bath, the lye based soap was used. Yes, your read that right – ONE bath every 365 days.

An infrequent bath was not restricted to the peasant class alone. The nobility and the monarchy in most cold countries would have a bath only once a month. The perfume industry in France itself started as a way to ward off body odour. Frequent bathing was considered an unhealthy practice and this made sense given the extreme low temperatures that could occur in these countries.

 The soap and shampoo in the Modern Era:

The now ubiquitous mass produced shampoo and soap owes its origins to 3 inventors: Nicholas Leblanc, Michel Eugene Chevreul and Ernest Solvay. Their inventions in the mid 19th century,  transformed what used to be a home made cottage industry based process into a multi billion dollar commercial process which spawned the commercial shampoo as well.

Why soap is not good for skin:

The modern mass produced soap is quite different from its cottage industry ancestor which used just 2 ingredients – trimmed animal fat and lye. Today, the modern soap adds other additives like talc, bleaches, fillers, colours and chemical fragrances to the mix.

However, both kinds of soaps share one common trait – they are extremely harsh on skin.

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The key reason for this harsh effect on skin can be traced to a single factor – by design a soap is alkaline with a pH of atleast 8 or above. This alkaline pH makes sense if you are having a bath once a year like in Medieval England. The amount of dirt, dead cells and sebum accumulated in skin for a year would need an extremely harsh, tough cleansing product preferably with an alkaline soap.

But given our penchant for a bath atleast once a day, and often in hot water, an alkaline product like a soap alters the pH of skin. Skin’s pH has been carefully designed to be 5.5 and is kept that way by the natural oil secretions on our skin, our sweat and the presence of synergistic colonies of friendly bacteria on our skin.

When we alter the pH of our skin using a soap, this breaks this ecosystem, dries out skin, kills the friendly bacteria and leaves our skin open to the invasion of hostile bacteria. Consistent and frequent use of soap will leave skin dry, irritable and unhealthy.
(We’ve discussed much better, gentler ways to have a bath earlier.)

The issue with modern shampoos:

We have detailed the drying and scalp irritating properties of SLS in previous posts. We have spoken about how the commercial SLS laden shampoo cleans by stripping all the essential sebum from your scalp and hair. We also spoke about how this causes a counter reaction in your scalp, which then compensates with a greater amount of sebum production to make up for the lack of essential sebum.

SLS and SLeS also denatures scalp protein and damages the hair’s cuticular structure. Undamaged hair has a “hydrophobic” surface which is coated with sebum. This ensures water does not enter the hairshaft and damage hair. With the repeated use of synthetic shampoos, and harsh chemical treatments on hair like colouring and deep conditioning, this hydrophobic oily coating is rinsed away , leaving gaps in the cuticular structure through which water enters the hair shaft.

Yes I get synthetic soaps and shampoos are bad for me. What about my herbal shampoo?

Unfortunately, with the growing demand for natural products and the growing awareness for natural herbs and solutions, chemical consumer products companies have now made a clever addition to their toxin laden products.

They add, what is called in industry parlance as a “claim ingredient “ to their regular synthetic products.

 The claim ingredient as per Indian law:

Unfortunately the consumer products industry – both in India & globally is very poorly regulated industry compared to say the food or pharmaceutical industries.

marketing hype

 

 

 

 

The first problem with “regulation” is the fact that regulation always lags or follows the introduction of a new concept. The very concept of “regulation” is new and most regulatory bodies of the 20th century were set-up by governments in response to misleading or downright false claims made by manufacturers. Think about it, the concept of a BIS standard for a soap or shampoo can be defined only after there is a significantly large industry for these products.

The second major problem is the fact that the major manufacturers are often appointed by governments as experts to set up regulations. In this regard, several shocking loopholes or low standards that favor manufactures have now been enshrined as “government standards”.

industry collaboration

For example manufacturers can add just 1% of a ingredient  say amla and claim ALL the benefits associated with it – all they have to do is use phrases likes “with the goodness of  amla“  while the rest of the product could contain any manner of chemical bases or preservatives. Even organic food, a new and exciting sector , created by folks in response to pesticides & GMO has not been spared. An “organic” ready to eat food product can contain by law, preservatives like sodium benzoate. So much for “safe”, “organic” food!

Example 1:

Consumer VOICE, a leading, independent publisher did a comparative test of major Indian hair oil brands available in the market. The reference to this original article is given below. The independent study found the following in their research:

  1. All the brands of hair oil were based on mineral oil or Liquid Paraffin – while this was mentioned on the product label, the advertising for these products generally emphases only the goodness of the natural oils and herbs used. This test included even leading brands which claimed to be ayurvedic and natural. Light Liquid Paraffin was found to be between 62% – 91% in content. While BIS permits the use of Light Liquid Paraffin in cosmetic products, there is no maximum limit specified. This is grossly misleading as consumers are obviously buying the hair oils based on their claims of the hair oils containing vegetable oils and herbs,
  2. In 2 leading advertised brands of Amla (Indian gooseberry ) based hair oil, the Amla extract is less than 2%. Even with adding such a trace quantity of Amla, the Manufacturer is getting away by naming this product an Amla Hair oil, when it should really be called a Paraffin hair oil!
  3. A leading advertised brand of Almond hair oil contained , in fact, only a few drops of almond oil per bottle- the net weight of mineral oil was 76% and vegetable oil was over 20%.

Ayurveda has not been spared too

Unfortunately the bad habits from the chemical consumer products industry have defiled the Indian Ayurvedic sector as well. AYUSH standards from the GoI allow a range of “permitted” additives, base, preservatives etc. So you could find an “Ayurvedic” toothpaste, with one or two ingredients mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts but with the bulk of the product containing a synthetic base or with sodium lauryl sulfate as a foaming agent.

Example 2:

A leading South Indian brand of herbal hairwash powder has often been brought to our notice by Krya consumers. They check the foam generated by this herbal hairwash and tell us it is atleast twice more than the Krya hairwashes. The foam quality is also surprisingly similar to the foam generated by a synthetic shampoo – the foam is thick, and lasts for a long time on hair.

An analysis of this product’s contents proved difficult, as the Indian label lists only upto 60% of its ingredients. The natural foam generating herbs like Sapindus trifoliatus, Sapindus mukorossi (Different species of Soapberry / Reetha), and Acacia concinna (Shikakai) is less than 5%. The largest herb listed by volume is Coconut Shell powder, which has no nutritive action and is only a natural abrasive and filler.

So 2 questions you might have are: What is in the missing 40% of the product? And how is it foaming?

Both questions have one definite answer – SLS. This is not declared in the Indian pack as companies are not required by law to do so here. But SLS is listed in some of its export packs and the percentage volume is sometimes as high as 17%.The balance could possibly be made up of preservatives, other fillers, foam boosters and perhaps a fragrance – we say could, because, again the Indian law protects cosmetic manufacturers. We don’t have to disclose what goes into the products that are used so intimately by billions of consumers everyday .

Ok, dang! What are my options now?

So what is an Indian Consumer to do? If you find a product that is cheaply priced, colourful, easy-to-use, with a shelf life of more than 12 months and still “natural”, you may wonder, is this too good to be true ? Yes, indeed it is too good to be true.

Some of the points we ask our consumers to check on the label:

  1. Add the ingredients listed to check if they add upto a 100 % – if not ask the company what is not part of the declaration – this includes vague declarations like “base”, “q.s”, “lotion base”, etc
  2. Check the fragrance – if it lingers in your bathroom for a long time or on your person for a long time, it is probably not natural. Natural fragrances rarely last for long.
  3. Check the foam quality and consistency – synthetic foam derived from SLS / SLeS / ALeS and other chemical sources is usually extremely white, thick (think thick clouds of foam), and is retentive and substantive – so it will stay for a long time.
  4. Check for the mention of the words “extracts” vs. the use of whole herbs
  5. Check for the mention of surfactants which are described as being derived from coconuts . My favourite example is how SLS is repackaged as a natural coconut derived surfactant – My challenge back always is this – If I give you a coconut, can you make SLS for me without the use of manufacturing equipment and synthetic chemicals? If your answer is no, then stop linking this poor coconut to SLS. The coconut is as much a precursor to SLS as a real Nagpur Orange is to a synthetic orange cola.

The human body – designed for health:

Ayurveda and Siddha classical texts reveal a very wonderful fact – a normal human body is designed to live healthfully and well upto atleast 100 years of age. In fact, the texts classify middle age, as the age between 33 – 66, and old age begins only from 66 years onwards. Rasayana and rejuvenative treatments like Panchkarma are designed to internally balance the doshas and set the body back to its natural balance.

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The external use of whole herb based toxin free products along with the right diet and lifestyle gives almost magical results even in decades old stubborn hair and scalp issues like dandruff, scalp flaking, hair breakage, etc.

We have chosen this August to focus on hair health and care. And to inspire your transition to natural haircare and to re-discover just how good your hair can look / be, we have a very special deal on all of Krya’s haircare products with upto 20% off on all our haircare goodies!

The Krya August Hair Olympics Challenge

To inspire a change to toxin-free natural products and to give your hair a much better shot at real health, we are celebrating the Krya Hair Olympics Challenge this August.

BeFunky Collage

Looking for thicker, healthier, stronger hair this August?

Throw away your synthetic hair care products and replace them with Krya’s nourishing hair care products instead.

Every Krya hair care product for adults carries a special discount only in August 2016

  • 10% off if you buy a single piece of any Krya hair care product for adults
  • 20% off if you buy 2 or more pieces of any Krya hair care product for adults or a Krya hair care system for adults

Explore Krya’s huge range of good-for-you hair care products at special prices here.

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Shampoo Seppuku – Throw away that shampoo part 2

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Our last post on SLS in a synthetic shampoo has set the cat among the pigeons. We have received a huge number of emails, calls and messages from You stating your concern on the issue ( and you should be concerned!).

We’ve also had several of our consumers sending us pictures of the labels of their current brand of shampoo – and we’ve played Sherlock decoding the labels to them. Almost every brand of “natural” or gentle shampoo label that has been sent to us contained Sodium Laureth sulphate (SLES), that we write about and some other toxic animals like Methyl and Propyl Paraben.

And that is the point of this post. If you thought the only villains hiding in your shampoo were SLS, SLeS and silicones like DiMethicone, well, you were mistaken, weren’t you.

Instead your Shampoo has an entire secret society of villains hiding in it – (yes, we love DC Comics and aren’t ashamed of it !)
If SLS was the Lex Luthor in your shampoo, meet The Wizard, Gorilla Grodd, and the Funky Flashman, right here.

 

MEA, DEA and TEA (Monethanolamine, Diethanolamine and Tri-ethanolamine)

DEA, TEA and EA (Ethanolamine) are produced when aqueous ammonia reacts with ethylene dioxide.

Ethanolamines are clear, colorless, viscous liquids which reduce the surface tension of oil and water combined products so that the oil and water can mix together without separating. Ethanolamines are found therefore in shampoos, face washes, body washes, bubble baths and gels, sunscreens, hair dyes, eyeliners, mascaras and also in dishwashing detergents, liquid detergents, metalworking fluids, paints and printing inks.

TEA is commonly used in cleansing milks or creams – because it is so strongly alkaline (a 1% solution of TEA has a pH of 10), it is used as a dirt remover in ironically named “gentle cleansing creams”.

What the Industry says about MEA, DEA and TEA – rinse fast, and thoroughly:

Even industry supported and funded bodies like the cosmetics Ingredient review Panel (established in 1976 by the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance association and supported by the U.S FDA), recommended that TEA and DEA concentrations should not exceed 5%.

They also recommend that if you use a product containing any Ethanolamine, you should use the product briefly, and not continually and thoroughly scrub and rinse to ensure there is no ethanolamine lingering on your skin or scalp.

This recommendation does not take into account the fact that most of us linger when we use wash off products (and definitely more than the recommended 5 minutes). It also does not address the issue of continuous usage – many of us have now graduated to shampooing every single day. Nor does it answer the concern of DEA in leave on products like conditioners, and skin care products like mascara or even medicine like ear drops which are supposed to linger.

tea dea lingering prohibited

Why you should keep away from MEA, DEA and TEA

Effect on hair:

The excessive use of shampoos containing TEA and DEA can irritate your scalp, make your hair feel dry and lifeless, and breakdown your hair’s keratin structure,

Contact dermatitis:

3 studies spaced several years apart found that TEA based products occasionally cause contact dermatitis – the products studies were as diverse as a sunscreen, and ear drops.

Environmental toxicity:

When TEA hits water bodies, as is common when the shampoo we use goes down our drains, into our sewers and into our rivers, it can potentially cause acute and chronic toxicity in several aquatic species.

The last word on TEA:

TEA is a scheduled chemical listed in Schedule 3, Part B of the chemical Weapons Convention. This Control treaty outlaws the production or stockpiling of dangerous chemicals or their precursors that can be use to create chemical weapons.

So if we manufactured or used more than 30 tonnes of TEA every year, we have to declare this, and allow ourselves to be inspected just to make sure we weren’t manufacturing weapons. And we cannot export TEA to countries who have not signed off on the Chemical weapons Convention treaty.

Not so Fun fact: TEA is used to manufacture Nitrogen Mustard a chemical warfare weapon. In World War 2, several countries manufactured and stockpiled Nitrogen Mustard but did not use it (thankfully!). Nitrogen Mustard has a strong cytotoxic (cell destroying) effect and is today used in cancer chemotherapy.

Krya WTF moment: What the fish is a chemical scheduled under the chemical Weapons Treaty doing in your shampoo / sunscreen /shaving cream / ear drops?

Here are some avatars of Ethanolamines you could find in synthetic products around your home – our recommendation? Toss em out:

  1. Cocamide DEA
  2. Cocamide MEA
  3. DEA-Cetyl Phosphate
  4. DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate
  5. Linoleamide MEA
  6. Lauramide DEA
  7. Myristamide DEA
  8. Stearamide MEA
  9. Oleamide DEA
  10. TEA-Lauryl Sulfate
  11. Triethanloamine

 Parabens

Parabens are a class of synthetic preservatives widely used in cosmetics, personal care products and medicines. They have been used in these products for about a hundred years now and are the industry standard for anti bacterial and anti fungal properties.

You can find Parabens in almost every single synthetic cosmetic and personal care product from shampoos, to skin creams to under arm deodorants. They are also used in fragrances, but as fragrances are considered trade secrets, manufacturers do not have to disclose what goes into their fragrances, including deadly villains like Parabens.

What the Industry and Governments say about Parabens:

In spite of extensive literature on the hormonal effects of Parabens, the 2006 Cosmetic Industry Review compendium trivializes the problem. They maintain that Parabens “must certainly be considered safe”.

However, after the work of many consumer awareness groups like EWG, companies like Johnson & Johnson pledged to remove both parabens and formaldehyde from its baby care and adult skin care products by 2015 including brands like Aveeno & Neutrogena.

Globally most governments have not re-examined the safety of parabens. Some outliers are the Danish government which has banned the use of products for children below 3 years. In India parabens are commonly used in cosmetic and other applications.

Why you should keep away from Paraben containing products:

Effect on skin and Hair – aging and cell damage

The irony is not lost on us. Parabens are commonly found in anti aging products. However, research shows that they actually accelerate the skin aging process!

Researchers from Meijo University, Japan concluded that Methyl Paraben could cause carcinogenic skin damage when people who used the compound in skin care products were exposed to sunlight irradiation. Similarly, Researchers from Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Japan concluded that UVB exposure to Methyl Paraben when used on skin significantly increased cell death and oxidative stress in human skin.

Endocrine disrupting function

The European Commission on Endocrine disruption have listed Parabens as a category 1 priority substance because they easily penetrate skin, and interfere with the function of the hormones. In our body, Parabens can mimic estrogen.

Penetrative ability into the body:

Parabens have been detected in urine, serum, breast milk and seminal fluid, but the most worrying fact has been their detection in breast tissue from patients with breast cancer. In one important North American study, it was calculated that the average person is exposed to 76 mg of parabens every day, with 50 mg from cosmetics, 25 mg from pharmaceuticals and 1 mg from food.

Research from the CDC’s National Centre for Environmental Health found that the blood of over 60% of the children surveyed during the National Health and Nutrition examination survey was contaminated with more than 8 toxins including significant levels of 3 kinds of parabens.

One alarming property of parabens is their ability to enter the body through the skin, something that most people are not aware of. This has been widely studied in underarm cosmetics like deodorants and whiteners. Breast cancer research shows a higher concentration of parabens in the upper lateral breast near the armpit corresponding to the use of deodorants which contain parabens.60% of breast cancer tumors occur in the precise area where we use deodorant sprays!

 

An important point to note here is the route we allow to Parabens when we apply then on our skin and hair. While eating Parabens in your food is not the best thing to do, in the oral route, Parabens are metabolized better, and are less estrogenic.

However in the dermal route, we allow Parabens to directly enter our blood stream and make their way to our organ systems, increasing our exposure risk.

Effect on Male reproductive health:

In addition to Paraben’s estrogen like properties, this chemical has also been associated with interfering with the Male reproductive system. Studies report low sperm counts, and decreased levels of testosterone in Men linked to the absorption of Parabens form personal care products.

Intersex fish:

Boulder Colorado in 2008 undertook a multimillion dollar upgrade of their waste water effluent plant. Until then, intersex fish were a common sight – stimulated by the chemicals in personal care products like shampoos and pharmaceuticals like steroids, male fish across species developed female characteristics. This multimillion dollar plant has not removed the problem – however, with efficient sewage treatment, the male fish are taking slightly longer to get feminized.

Krya WTF moment: What the fish (pun intended) is a gender bender chemical that has been found in cancerous breast tumors, decreases sperm count and ages skin and hair doing in your shampoo? I mean, really?

krya wtf moment 2 - parabens

Here are some labels Parabens hide under in your shampoo or skin care product:

  1. Benzylparaben
  2. Butylparaben
  3. Propylparaben
  4. Methylparaben
  5. Ethylparaben
  6. Isobutylparaben

This isn’t over – far from it. Look out for our next post on this September on more Super villains hiding in your synthetic shampoo.

A happy hair month to you!

This article is a part of Krya’s series on healthy and happy hair, which we are writing all this September. Through the Krya healthy hair series, we hope to inform, educate and inspire you to restore your hair to its natural state of great health. Synthetic shampoos and hair products contain a huge host of suspect industrial chemicals that are not just toxic for us to use, but are polluting and toxic to the planet as well. The natural world is full of safe, environmentally sustainable, cruelty free options to care for your hair, and our series will try to present atleast a small part of this exciting world to you. 

 

Consumers love our all natural, synthetic free, gentle hair washes- explore more here. We are running an introductory offer on all of our skin and hair care products this month – just subscribe to our super useful newsletter above to get the coupon code in your inbox.

 

If you would like to explore our series further, here’s what We’ve written about hair health before this piece:

  1. What goes into your Shampoo – part 1
  2. What’s the deal with SLS and SLES – and why it shouldn’t come anywhere near you or your hair
  3. What is your hair supposed to be? A trial? A challenge? Or simply, your best friend
  4. Is beauty external? We think not
  5. What should you be looking for on that product label?  
  6. Common carcinogens implicated in breast cancer found in your home 
  7. Is it a conspiracy? A pre-planned genetic supremacy race? Or simply misinformation? Some reasons behind common toxics & why they continue to be used 
  8. Are we putting our children at risk by using these products on them? Here are 3 toxins that plague children through the products we use on them. 
  9. Do the products we buy contain toxins? How do we decode what goes into them? Here’s Urban Survival 102 telling you how to decode a cosmetic label
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3 toxins that plague children and a recommendation

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

A few days ago I noticed my neighbour also getting ready her two year child ready for school. Just before bundling that child into the car, her mother was slathering her with sunscreen, made for babies. Sunscreen was evidently recommended by the school authorities, who these days are really careful about the children entrusted to them.

The sunscreen encounter got me thinking about the wide array of toxics that are marketed to and find their way into the bodies of children across the world today.

Here are the numbers

In this series on toxics, I have relied on US data due to the paucity of Indian studies. A recent study by the US Centre for Disease Control & Prevention concludes that BPA and 7 other toxics are building up within the bodies of their children. Over 60% of the children tested had significant residues of Bisphenol A (BPA) and other phenolic toxins like benzohenone-3, Triclosan, 2-4 dichlorophenol, and 3 parabens.

Bisphenol A is a common chemical found in plastic utensils and dishes, even those sold for children’s use. Triclosan is found in anti bacterial soaps, wipes and washes, Benzophenone-3 is also called oxybenzophenone is a common ingredient in many sunscreens.  Dichlorophenols are used in many herbicides and pesticides and parabens are found in many skin and hair care products.

In India, apart from these, heavy metals are a particular concern. A study done by Centre for Science & Environment in 2014, found that Mercury, prohibited for use in cosmetics in India, was found in 44% of the fairness cream brands surveyed. Lipstick samples tested had both chromium (50%) and nickel (43%).  And this despite what you may assume, is a concern for children as many paediatricians and dermatologists attest to the fact that in India colour cosmetics and fairness creams sold to women routinely get applied on children as  well.

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Colour cosmetics: a special concern for parents of young girls in India

We are extremely concerned about the the chemical and environmental toxin load on children’s bodies. As we have seen in our earlier articles on environmental toxins and industrial chemicals, many of them have a debilitating effect when exposed at an early stage. Children are particularly vulnerable at various stages in their development to the effect of endocrine disrupter chemicals and carcinogens. The Endocrine Society’s statement on these 2 chemical classes states that there is a latency of exposure: and that these chemicals when exposed at a critical developmental window can do great harm even in small doses.

no safe dose

There is no safe dose in certain chemical classes

The blood work of children being examined in western countries reveals environmental toxins in alarmingly high quantities. The route of exposure to these toxins are multiple. Some come through skin contact; some from cleaning product residue in the food we eat; some through the leachates of the potentially harmful cookware & cutlery we use, and through inhalation.

In this piece, we have focused on 3 potentially toxic products in our homes, and discuss alternatives to these for our children.

1. Sunscreen or Sunblock

The general recommendation from doctors in the US and Australia today appears to be this: Everyone regardless of skin colour should apply at least SPF 15 daily, even in winter. Suddenly in the space of a few decades, sunscreen is being positioned as an essential item of daily life, even for people who do not work in the fields or move around on horseback.

The sunscreen industry took off particularly when it became accepted that those with lighter skins like Caucasians were at higher risk. Also at risk were those living under a depleted ozone layer like the Australians.

So do Indians need sunscreen? Do Indian babies & children need sunscreen?

Sun sense

If you are concerned about sun exposure, the first step is to stay indoors during the afternoon. Secondly, when you do step outside, wear a hat and clothing that covers your entire body. Period.

Sunscreen is not an essential requirement. Even the cancer council of Australia, the country most paranoid about skin cancer runs a campaign called “slip, slop, slap, seek, slide “where prevention (through shade, clothing , hat etc) is the key weapon in fighting the potential harm of sun exposure. Further the cancer experts assert that sunscreen should be applied in a thick layer as directed by the manufacturer re-applied every two hours and cannot be used as a means to extend sun exposure like working on a tan at the beach.

Some sunscreen facts

Use of sunscreen is at an all time high across the world today especially in US & Australia. Yet here are the assertions by the cancer associations of those countries

  • 2 out of 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70
  • I in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime

Despite the increase in use of sunscreen, the prevalence of skin cancer in these countries has increased & is not at all in control. In a country like Australia with a population of just around 20 million, there are over 1 million skin cancer consultations with doctors annually.

Despite the patchy success of sunscreens and sunblocks, dermatologists and doctors continue to enthusiastically recommend these products. A May 2014 study by L’Oreal India said that over 94% of the 900 + dermatologists surveyed in India recommended use of a sunscreen as a “first line of defence” to their patients – atleast 3 times a day.

This state of affairs should provoke any right thinking person to  question the need or effectiveness of  sunscreen and sunblock. In fact we should be pulling at this thread further to investigate the potential harm caused by our sunscreens and sunblocks.

Unnecessary chemical overload

Imagine the drudgery of applying a thick coat of sun protection cream on your body daily for the rest of your life. The skin is the largest organ in the body, our first line of defence and under severe assault from environmental pollution already. To add to its woes we are applying a whole new set of toxins on our skin.

We have already written about the threat of parabens in this blog. Parabens are a common class of preservatives used in personal care products including sun screen and can be absorbed by the skin. They are best avoided.

sunscreen

Sunscreen: more harm than good?

Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide are the two main chemicals used in sun block around the world. While the debate rages on the safety of these chemicals, a new threat is upon us; Nano technology. The nano particle version of Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are also now commonly used in skin care products like sun block. Where the earlier molecules stayed on the outer layer of the skin as a physical barrier, now there is a threat that these nano particles can pass through the skin and enter the body. Oxybenzone, another common sun screen ingredient, is known to be a endocrine disruptor and skin irritant.

Children’s skin is upto three times thinner than adult skin and is vulnerable to the products applied on it. The ideal solution for children is to avoid the mid-day sun or at least use clothing and hats to protect their skin.

What about Vitamin-D?

In the rush to cover the skin with sunscreen we forget the vital role played by the sunshine in producing Vitamin-D. The global skin cancer scare has also created a parallel industry of vitamin-D supplements to be taken through food in the absence of healthy sun exposure. In Ayurveda, sun exposure at sunrise and sunset is recommended for healthy skin, regulating bio-rhythms and for producing vitamin –D.

Our personal experience with Vitamin D

Despite having over 300 days of sunshine in India, 80% of urban India and 70% of rural India are Vitamin D deficient today. This deficiency is suspected to be because of changing dietary habits, rising air pollution levels, and high concentration of toxins like pesticides in the environment.

Vitamin D deficiencies can manifest itself in a variety of symptoms including joint pains, inflammation, stiffness in the back. The Vitamin can prevent multiple sclerosis, diabetes, preeclampsia during pregnancy, low infant birth weight, and improve immune response to TB , asthma and Parkinson’s disease among other conditions.

 2. Phthalates

Phthalates are a class of chemicals used as plasticizers, to make physical products pliant and flexible – they can be found in vinyl flooring, raincoats, adhesives, detergents, nail polishes, soaps, toys and skin care lotions.

Because phthalates are physically bound into plastics using a heating process, they are very easily released when this physical bond breaks. For example when phthalate containing plastic dishes are washed with harsh chemicals or a child chews a toy containing phthalates.

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Plastic chew toys: not just an environmental hazard

India is slowly overhauling its regulations in children’s toys given the high probability of phthalate ingestion in chew toys for infants and toddlers. A BIS regulation formulated in 2011 have limits phthalates like DEHP and DBP to 0.1% or below for toys that are marketed to children under 4 years. However this guideline only addresses the use of single phthalates. Many toy manufacturers use a combination of 2 or more phthalates in a plastic product, and BIS does not address this exposure. And unfortunately this guideline is simply that – it is not a law and a manufacturer need not abide by it, especially if the buyers of these toys do not know about these safety regulations.

A 2012 study of plastic toys in India found that even a year after the BIS guideline was passed, over 45% of children’s toys marketed to the below 4 years segment exceeded international safety limits for phthalates.

The above BIS guideline as mentioned is not a law / directive or regulation. So at this point there are no measures in place to protect us from phthalate exposure in any form. It might be difficult to identify phthalate free plastic toys for your child, so look for fabric or wooden toys.

3. Bisphenol – A ( BPA)

 Bisphenol-A ( BPA) is an industrial chemical found in plastics and resins, especially used to store food. BPA can leach into our food in many ways. It is found in resins that coat the insides of tins used to package food. It is often found in food grade plastics and easily leaches into the contents under heat, especially in microwaves and dishwashers. Children are understood to be particularly susceptible to BPA , even ingesting it prenatally and through breast milk. Studies have shown concerns that BPA can affect brain, behaviour and prostrate gland in foetuses, infants and children.

Unlike phthalates, BPA –free products are widely available now and are clearly labelled.

However plastics are best avoided in relation to food. Beyond BPA there are other plastics that can still leach into food over time and through heat. Steel, wood , ceramic , enamel, clay are all options to store and serve food to children.

The Krya skin care recommendation for children

Children should be shielded from extreme weather like the afternoon sun, cold winds and the rain. When stepping out in the sun , ensure that they are wearing a hat, and their arms and legs are covered. Just clothing alone can provide the equivalent of nearly SPF 5 protection.

1. hello sun

Keeping it safe and simple: a hat!

If their skin gets burnt especially on a holiday, there are a number of natural remedies like oil , water & milk of coconut which heals burns and helps skin repair. The only after effect of extreme sun exposure to be concerned about is the dehydration of skin and subsequent cell damage.

To ensure your child’s skin remains well moisturized and that the external barrier is well protected either in the cold or after sun exposure, Indian tradition recommends the liberal use of cold pressed vegetable oil. Oils like coconut oil, and even coconut milk have been studied to rapidly heal damaged skin barriers and act as an emollient for the skin. Pure native cow’s ghee is also extremely good at removing excess pitta and adding much needed moisture lost in children’s skin. Keeping your child’s skin well moisturized and undamaged by drying and toxic agents like synthetic soaps is a great start to keeping your child’s skin healthy.

For babies and young children, Ayurveda recommends frequent oil massages (daily if your child’s skin is very dry, and weekly for most others). Different oils are recommended at different times of the year. But the overall effect of the oil massage is a calm, centered baby with a healthy and nourished body that heals better and grows better.

The use of a gentle grain or clay based cleanser is a perfect complement to vegetable oil. It mops up the excess oil extremely efficiently, but leaves behind a very tiny layer to ensure that young skin is not left completely dry.

Parenting and baby care today is faced with a commercial onslaught. It seems like a very complex maze that you cannot navigate without the aid of dozens of accessories and products. As parents with plenty, it seems almost wrong to lead a life with less, which is simple and natural.

While this is a matter of parenting philosophy, as a researcher , formulator and lifelong fan of the miracle that is human skin, I can safely say , that when it comes to parenting and products, less is definitely more.

This article is a part of Krya’s series on toxics in household and personal care products. Through this series, we hope to inform, educate and inspire you to look around your home and detox it and yourself from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today. The natural world is full of safe, environmentally sustainable, cruelty free options to care for yourself and your home, and our series will try to present atleast a small part of this exciting world to you. 

If you would like to explore our series further, here’s what We’ve written before this piece:

  1. An introduction to the series
  2. Common carcinogens implicated in breast cancer found in your home 
  3. Is it a conspiracy? A pre-planned genetic supremacy race? Or simply misinformation? Some reasons behind common toxics & why they continue to be used


Please explore Krya’s authentic range of natural, good for you skin care products for children below:

  1. Krya’s baby care range
  2. Krya’s Toddler and Kids Range

 

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6 myths & 3 facts : why toxic chemicals continually enter your home

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Reading Time: 13 minutes

In my earlier life, I worked in one of India’s leading biscuit and confectionary companies. My office was near the production facility, so 4 pm would have the odours of baking biscuits and vanilla essence wafting into my room. In the short 6 months that I was there, I came to heartily hate the smell of industrial baking. The stocks of hydrogenated vegetable oil, refined wheat flour and white sugar that went into the facility every single day firmly quashed any notions I had of eating something reasonably healthy every time I opened a freely available pack of biscuits.

Sugar is one of the largest volume ingredients in any food product. Whenever a food product is formulated, especially for children, sugar is the Hail Mary pass – when in doubt, you simply increase the sugar to make sure your consumers love the product.

A recent conversation with a friend who works in another food company had us discussing a popular children’s beverage that is marketed on the promise of giving children a “healthy fruit drink” in the evening. My friend, who is a father himself, spoke to me with some horror about his discussion with his R&D team about the contents of this drink. “They told me it contained 96% sugar, Preethi”, he said with dismay.

And this brings home one of the myths of the food industry. It isn’t “tasty” or going to “appeal to our consumers” unless we super load it with sugar or fat. Most food industry marketers do not have the confidence to launch a product that is not over loaded with sugar or fat. They believe that they cannot achieve a profitable product with mass appeals with less sugar and less oil. Contrary to overwhelming public belief that excess sugar and fat is unnecessary and in fact dangerous, the industry believes that we indiscriminately want high sugar and high fat laden treats.

Similar myths and facts abound in household chemicals. This is why, despite them being researched and found to be dangerous, they continue to be used blithely to create products that you & I use every day.

6 myths and 3 facts in the consumer product industry : or why toxic chemicals continue to enter our homes

 Myth 1: There is a safe permissible limit for toxic chemicals (below which they are harmless)

The general rule followed in establishing safety standards in industrial chemicals is that a higher percentage means more harm. Therefore the assumption is that it is possible to find a level below which even a toxic chemical can be used safely.

Truth 1: There is no safe level for a toxic chemical

This logic has repeatedly failed us in several industrial chemicals. For example, petrochemical derived benzene is considered toxic even in the parts per trillion range. Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was found to exhibit estrogenecity (the ability to mimic estrogens within the body and replace it) even in the very very low parts per trillion concentration range.

Certain endocrine disrupters like Bisphenol A, found in plastics, and parabens found in several cosmetic products paradoxically have a greater hormone mimicking action as their concentrations decrease.

4. no safe dose of parabens

Nano technology: growing concern

A growing trend which is of concern to us as consumers and parents is the use of Nano technology in industrial chemicals. Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring oxide and is widely used as a whitening pigment in plastics, and ceramics. Because of its high refractive index it is commonly used in sunscreens to enhance the SPF factor. Titanium dioxide is now being used as nano particles in several applications including food and cosmetic products.

We are also constantly eating nano titanium dioxide as it is now finding its way into making milk whiter, dazzling white toothpastes and in several food products that are marketed to children including cup cakes, hard candy and mints and those meant for adults like coffee creamers and even oatmeal. Researchers at Birmingham and Cornell University report that an average consumer could be ingesting 100 trillion nanoparticles of Titanium dioxide every single day.

3. Titanium dioxide in hh products

Previous cell research has already established that Titanium dioxide is cytotoxic – this means that it damages cells. A new study now reports that Titanium dioxide not only damages cells but is capable of inducing tumour like changes in exposed human cells with an increased rate of cell proliferation and a decrease in programmed cell death (both of which are traits of precancerous or cancerous cells).

Because nanotechnology is relatively new, the existing bio safety norms do not cover the effects of using Nano particles of what were considered generally safe ingredients. A Nano particle is sized between 1 – 100 billionth of a meter in diameter – at this size, their absorption rate into the skin significantly increases and they have extremely potent effects on our body as compared to the larger, non Nano particle size of the same ingredient.

Non traditional dose response dynamics : or how toxic chemicals bamboozle us

The Endocrine society states that one of the most worrying properties of Endocrine disrupter chemicals is their ability to cause reproductive abnormalities at “even infinitesimally low levels of exposure, indeed any level of exposure” particularly if this exposure occurs at a critical developmental phase. They have also stated that low doses often exert more potent damage compared to high doses.

Myth 2: A toxic chemical is toxic only if ingested. Your risk is less if it is applied on skin

Truth 2: The skin is a living organ. It can absorb a wide variety of substances and pass it on to the bloodstream inside.

We continue to believe that the skin is a non porous physical barrier. Nothing else explains why we continue to carelessly apply extremely toxic substances directly on our skin.

Nicotine patches and contraceptive patches are marketed and have been used by millions of consumers. The route here of absorption is direct dermal absorption, i.e. the skin.

The dermal route of chemical absorption is often faster and more deadly compared to the oral route where you swallow the ingredient in question. The body’s digestive system with its strong acid barrier can help filter out many deadly toxins. However the skin application route has no digestive system to filter out potential toxins. When we use nano particles to further reduce the size of our toxic ingredients, they are able to penetrate faster into the body through the skin, and directly enter the blood and lymphatic systems and our fat reserves where they can bio accumulate and persist.

 

 Myth 3: Something that has been advertised on television, and is available in supermarkets, is not a toxic chemical: it is probably safe and has been tested

The U.S FDA lists that household and personal care products use over 100,000 industrial chemicals.  In its entire functioning history, the US EPA has managed to ban or restrict only 5 substances and that too only in specific applications.

Industrial chemical do not need to be tested before combined with other chemicals and launched as products into the market. If a new chemical is used, companies are rarely required by law to disclose safety data, and voluntary disclosure is almost never practised. In the U.S the burden of safety testing is put on the FDA. If the understaffed and stretched FDA does not block a new chemical within 90 days or ask for safety data, then the chemical is cleared by default.

Truth 3: Product testing by companies or the government is not fool proof. It is rarely able to simulate the effect of toxic chemicals over a long period.

Pharmaceutical history is rife with instances of companies learning after launch that the products they marketed were actually toxic and dangerous.

The tragic history of DES – how a drug marketed to protect pregnancies caused vaginal cancer

Diethylstilbestrol (DES), was routinely given to pregnant women between 1940 – 1971 (for more than 30 years!), to help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and losses. Originally considered safe for both pregnant women and their foetuses, DES was aggressively marketed and routinely prescribed.

In 1971, DES was found to cause a rare form of vaginal tumour among girls and women who had been exposed to the drug in their mother’s womb. It is to be noted that this research was first reported in the New England Journal of Medicine and action was taken by the FDA. The companies involved in marketing the drug neither funded nor did this research or took the effort to withdraw the drug.

Subsequently the US FDA withdrew DES for use on pregnant women. The drug itself was only very slowly taken off the market. It continued to be prescribed for different medical conditions some of which were later found to be not approved at all by the FDA. During the 1960s, it was even used as a growth hormone in the beef and poultry industry until it was phased out in the late 1970s after its carcinogenic properties came to light. The last remaining manufacturer and marketer of DES in the U.S, Eli Lilly, finally stopped making it in 1997; a full 26 years after the FDA banned its use on pregnant women.

Estimates suggest that more than 2 million people may have been exposed to DES across the United States, France, Great Britain and the Netherlands in the period between 1940 – 1971. DES is one of the first transplacental carcinogens discovered in human beings, a toxin that could actually cross the placenta and harm the foetus. Besides vaginal cancer, daughters exposed in utero were also found to have “an increased risk of moderate to severe cervical squamous cell dysplasia and an increased risk of breast cancer”.

The most recent published research in 2011, lists the cumulative risks of women exposed to DES as follows:  33.3% infertility rates compared to 1% in the general population, spontaneous abortion 50.3% vs. 38.6%, preterm delivery, 53.3% vs. 17.8%; loss of second-trimester pregnancy, 16.4% vs. 1.7%; ectopic pregnancy, 14.6% vs. 2.9%; preeclampsia, 26.4% vs. 13.7%; stillbirth, 8.9% vs. 2.6%; early menopause, 5.1% vs. 1.7%; grade 2 or higher cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, 6.9% vs. 3.4%; and breast cancer at 40 years of age or older, 3.9% vs. 2.2%.

The study also states that Daughters with prenatal exposure to DES may also have an increased risk of uterine fibroids, and incompetent cervix in adulthood. In the 1970s and early 1980s, studies published on prenatally DES-exposed males investigated increased risk of testicular cancer, infertility and urogenital abnormalities in development, such as cryptorchidism and hypospadias.

By studying the history and tragic consequences of just one drug, we are able to see how ill informed and unprepared governments and the companies are. This extends to both understanding the consequences of the chemicals they use and their efforts to make amends once they understand these consequences.

If we do not learn from the mistakes of history, we will be condemned to repeat it.

Myth 4: It is impossible to formulate without synthetic or toxic chemicals

Although the cosmetics industry is more than 4500 years old, today, we entirely depend upon industrial chemicals synthesized in the last 100 years for all our daily products.

Methyl, ethyl and propyl paraben, are common preservatives used in the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. They are found in shampoos, moisturizing products, shaving gels, toothpaste and make-up.

However, the ester bearing form of parabens have been found in breast cancer tumours indicating that they have migrated from a product that has been applied on the skin (deodorants, creams) into the body.

Most cosmetic and personal care products available today use paraben preservatives. Even products marketed under the guise of being natural or sometimes even organic use these deadly chemicals.

Truth 4: Natural alternatives are available & have always been used

Natural alternatives have always existed. It is the responsibility of companies to use them and protect the health of their consumers. Some of the exciting options include grapefruit seed extract, vitamin e and extracts of plants with powerful anti-bacterial and fungicidal properties like neem, turmeric, thyme and rosemary.

Formulation path followed at Krya

The more water a product contains, the shorter its shelf life becomes, necessitating the use of cheap and dangerous preservatives like the paraben family. A powder or a solid formulation is more stable and depending on the ingredients used does not need synthetic preservatives.

When we formulate our skin and hair care line at Krya, we eliminate water. Our consumers add water when using our products. Therefore, we are able to create formulations without synthetic preservatives. We also use plant ingredients that offer powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungicidal properties – for example, rosemary goes into the Krya Kids body wash, and thyme and peppermint go into the Krya hair wash.

5. krya natural formulation pathway

 

Myth 5: There are no long term ill effects in the products I use everyday

Truth 5: There are many long term ill effects caused by everyday products

Gene disruption, bio accumulation , transplacental migration & latency of exposure are some of the ways products as innocuous as a sunscreen can affect you in the long term.

Epigenetic disruption

As we saw in the case of DES, the exposure of the first generation affected not just the second generation but also continued to have effect on the third generation or the grand children of those who had been exposed to DES. This makes chemicals like DES epigenetic disrupters- where they modify gene copies ensuring that these modified / mutant genes get passed down from generation to generation with the same tragic consequences.

Bioaccumulation

Persistent endocrine disrupters have a high lipid solubility, therefore they bio accumulate in fat tissue. No endocrine system is immune to this class of chemicals so every one of us is likely to have this class of chemicals in our body.

Latency of exposure

The  Endocrine Society refers to Chemical endocrine disrupters as having “latency” of exposure”.  This means that there is a lag between the time someone has been exposed to the chemical to the manifestation of a disorder.

So we would not be able to observe the effects of this exposure immediately. It may manifest as we become adults or as we age.

Myth 6: I have been using these products for years; I cannot see any ill effects, so I must be safe.

Endocrine disrupter chemicals (EDCs) have extremely diverse and complex mechanisms of acting out in the body. A single EDC could be both estrogenic and androgenic.  Some could break down or metabolise to generate sub products with different properties. Sex steroids target many organ systems in the body including the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal system, the breast, uterus, cervix, vagina and other non reproductive tissues like the bone, muscle, and skin.

Truth 6: You could have several ill effects later that could never be traced back to the detergent or face wash you once used.

The many organs targeted and the long gestation may lead to a diverse set of symptoms that could never get traced back to the toxic chemicals we have been exposed to.

 

 We looked at some myths. Now here are some facts.

Fact 1: There is too much money at stake

We discussed the effect of several human carcinogens which are implicated in breast cancer in our last post. In 2004, a tally of all the research done on BPA showed that of the 104 independent studies done, 94 found adverse effects and 10 found no effects.

However, of the 11 studies conducted or funded by the manufacturers of BPA, none showed BPA to have any adverse effects.

Let’s understand the economics behind this.

In 2002, U.S companies produce 2.8 million tons of Bisphenol A.  The value of BPA sales in 2002 in the US was 5.3 billion dollars, in a single year.

In the presence of high financial stakes, and strong stakeholder pressure, it is extremely difficult for paid employees to put an end to the gravy train, especially if they are not presented with overwhelmingly alarming facts about the chemical they use.

As human beings, the tendency is to justify our world view by clinging on to small shards of probable positive evidence.  These high stakes are applicable to all industrial chemicals especially the highly carcinogenic toxic chemicals.

Fact 2: Depending on how the tests were conducted, the results can vary

Why is it that independent studies and industry funded studies always differ?

3 straight explanations exist for this:

  • Lab animal diet – If the rates / mice in question have been fed on a diet of soy, which can itself be mildly estrogenic, the results are skewed in endocrine disrupter studies. For example in a study testing the effect of paraben on cancer, the lab rats should not be fed soy.
  • Housing rats in plastic cages or stainless steel cages can again skew results as plastics disrupt endocrine levels but metals do not. So a study on Bisphenol A should house a rat only in metal cages and not the cheaper plastic cages.
  • The results also vary depending upon the breed of rat that was used in the study.

Independent researchers have found that industry funded research almost always uses the Sprague Dawley rat supplied by one particular company.

Apart from being chosen for its calmness and ease of handling, this breed of rat is so tough that its response to estrogenic compounds is extremely muted. This practice obviously severely tones down the results of endocrine disrupter studies resulting in claims that these chemicals are extremely safe.

Hence, it is entirely probable that industry funded studies in the potential effects of estrogenic mimicking compounds and endocrine disrupters like BPA throws up an entirely different set of findings from independently funded studies: it all lies in the choice of Rat breed that has been “plugged” into the study. 

2. Sprague dawley rat

Fact 3: Industrial chemicals need to be studied as a system and not in isolation

In 2005, Kevin Croft an EPA researcher published a chilling finding. Kevin Croft gave rats different doses of mixtures of 3 classes of common industrial chemicals – dioxins, PCBs and dibenzofurans at different concentrations, from those commonly found in human exposure to 100 times higher. At the time of his research, even the highest dose was considered safe when studied in isolation.

These chemicals were chosen as they are common industrial contaminants found in human foods from fish to breast milk.

At the lower doses, the researchers found that the effect of the mixture was additive and it significantly reduced the animal’s thyroxine levels, which is the most common thyroid hormone. At higher doses, the thyroxine reduction had a stronger multiplicative effect – the sum of their effect was greater than simple addition.

This means that any study that singly examines an industrial chemical is not sufficient. Neither is a ban or elimination of one type of chemical enough to guarantee our safety. We have to look a radical new products that completely eliminate the use of ALL harmful chemicals.

We need a new way of thinking about things

There is grudging and reluctant response from the industry to consumer protests on safety. It is appalling to read the official statements given by companies when they commit to removing toxins like parabens. They give themselves atleast a 2 – 3 year window to “phase out” something that is toxic.

It is not practical to depend on governments to look after what goes into our detergents or moisturizers. Our government is still working on basic sustenance issues like food, water and sanitation and do not have the resources or the bandwidth to get into the complications caused by industrial chemicals. Investigative reports suggest that cosmetics and skin care products sold in India are still fighting basic norms like heavy metal contamination. We have not begun to go into the effects of leachates and feedstock industrial chemicals like parabens, phthalates, etc.

Our education today should not end with subjects like Mathematics, Physics and Geography. We have to expand our mind and begin exploring the connections our health has to food, and the products we use around ourselves.

We end this piece with a quote by Masanobu Fukuoka.

1. Fukuoka quote.

 This article is a part of Krya’s series on toxics in household and personal care products. Through this series, we hope to inform, educate and inspire you to look around your home and detox it and yourself from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today. The natural world is full of safe, environmentally sustainable, cruelty free options to care for yourself and your home, and our series will try to present atleast a small part of this exciting world to you. 

If you would like to explore our series further, here’s what We’ve written before this piece:

  1. An introduction to the series
  2. Common carcinogens implicated in breast cancer found in your home
  3. Holiday Eco spring Cleaning Purge: Parts 1 & 2
  4. Mosquito Monogatari
  5. Ant Attacks: a short post inspired by the Morphic resonance theory
  6. Is my shampoo truly natural?
  7. Ingredients in a Baby soap

 

 

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The Holiday Eco Spring cleaning series – Part 1

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

This blog is dedicated to helping everyone lead a more environmentally sustainable life, no matter where they are. We choose to in this blog, focus on the unique travails of the environmental enthusiast who lives in a crowded urban city. Perhaps we sympathise more with the urban environmentalists given that we are part of this group as well!

BeFunky_Crowded urban space - Chennai resized.jpg

 

Urban dwellers face many challenges on the road to environmental sustainability: they are severely time poor, live in overcrowded spaces, and have to compete fiercely for what I term the most basic of resources like clean water, clean air and good quality food and pleasant, natural urban spaces.

For the past few months I have been writing a fortnightly column in The Hindu’s habitat supplement on environmental issues that affect the urban home. This writing work has further driven home for us the task at hand for the Krya blog. The hundreds of queries we have now answered from readers of my column, Krya consumers and everyone else who wants to lead a cleaner life points to the escalating concern of the urban citizen on the state of their lives.

I do not believe the answer is to abandon these urban spaces we have created, Frankensteinian monsters though they may seem to be. The answer is to stand our ground, take a good hard look at our lives and begin to reclaim our life. The many urban oases we continue to seek for inspiration like a neighbourhood park or the beach tell us that a better life is possible. With some focus and determination.

On this note, I would like to begin the holiday spring cleaning series. The months between mid October to early March is pleasant all over India not just for the change in weather and the pleasant rains, but also for the many opportunities given to us to re-connect with our culture and our roots. And the festival season is a perfect time to throw out old ingrained practices and usher in some new, safe natural and eco friendly practices around your home.

Why is this critical?

David Suzuki, a Canadian scientist is one of prominent leaders of the worldwide movement fighting climate change and environmental hazards. His foundation has published an important study of the dangerous chemicals found in everyday cosmetics and cleaning products. The study, evocatively called the “dirty dozen” lists twelve chemicals and sheds light on the harmful effects of the “dirty dozen” to the environment and human health. A disturbing statistic of that study conducted in Canada tells us that more than 80% of the commonly used cosmetics contained the “dirty dozen” in various combinations.

What is the relevance of this study for Indian citizens? The entire “dirty dozen” group of chemicals are also commonly found in products sold in India. This is a direct result of globalization where companies use the same chemicals in their operations across the world. Indians however are at a distinct disadvantage due to the lack of strict government regulations on the composition of cosmetic products which is not the case in Europe or North America. For example a category of frequently used preservatives called “parabens “are limited in Europe to a maximum of 0.8% of the product. There is also a debate towards a complete ban on parabens in cosmetics sold in Europe. No such public debate is happening in India and the same companies that cannot use parabens in Europe are free to do so in India.

The Toxic Three

Monitoring a list of 12 ingredients every time you visit the supermarket is utterly impractical. Therefore, I have created a quick check –list of chemicals to be wary of, called the “toxic three” for easy reference. These are commonly found across many products used daily and there is steadily growing body of research that is unearthing the potential harm caused by them. The “toxic three” for our discussion are

1)    Triclosan 2) Sodium Lauryl Sulphate 3) Parabens

Triclosan is an anti-bacterial agent and will find its way into your home in a surprising number of products. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and is also being linked to cancer. A new concern is also looming. Due to the uncontrolled use of Triclosan, several strains of bacteria are developing resistance to it causing new “super-bugs”.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate commonly called SLS is an extremely common surfactant used in cosmetics and cleaning products to remove stains and create lather. A closely related compound is Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLeS). Several studies have linked SLS to eye and skin irritation, reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption and even cancer.

Final in the “toxic three” are Parabens. They are a group of compounds like ethyl parabens, methyl parabens, used for anti-bacterial and anti-fungal actions. They have a property of mimicking the female sex hormone oestrogen thereby interfering with hormone function. In an English study between 2005 and 2008 on 40 breast cancer tumour samples, 99% of them contained at least one type of paraben.

Where are the toxic three lurking in my home?

Triclosan is likely to be found in a product claiming anti-bacterial properties and is found in over 140 products like mattresses, toilet seat cover, toothpaste, soap, moisturizers, rain-coats etc. Many personal care products now advertise an anti bacterial active, so our list expands to include many products that you use on a daily basis like soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics, hand washes, detergents and dish-washes.

SLS or its variant can be found in any synthetic product that foams in your home. This includes personal care products like shampoos, face wash, shower gels, toothpastes and any liquid cleaning product like liquid detergent, liquid dishwash, hand wash, etc.

Parabens are typically used as preservatives in synthetic products and so can be found in a whole host of products from shampoos, to moisturizers, shaving creams and gels, toothpastes, and even makeup.

The toxic three are not just potentially harmful to you and your family, they also create dangerous consequences for our water bodies as they travel downstream.

What happens to your cleaning water as it travels downstream?

Triclosan resistant bacteria and cyanobacteria

Triclosan which was invented in the 1960s for surgeons slows down the growth of bacteria, fungi and mildew. As it is now commonly used in consumer products, it enters streams, and other water bodies through domestic waste water, sewer lines (which in India are rarely treated separately), with Triclosan residues commonly being found in water bodies in the U.S.

A new study published in the Environmental science and Technology journal, says that this constant flow of Triclosan into our water bodies is triggering the development of Triclosan resistant bacteria in water bodies – this alters the natural diversity of existing bacteria in the water bodies, introducing a relatively unknown and drug resistant species, increasing the composition of cyanobacteria by nearly 6 times, besides killing off the algae.

The increase in cyanobacteria which is a side effect of Triclosan entering our water bodies is extremely worrying – some cyanobacteria produce toxins called cyanotoxins which are toxic and dangerous to human, animal and marine life.

We have seen how the products we use around our home not only threaten our health and safety, but multiply their effect as they are released downstream to create dangerous, previously unthought-of of consequences.

What are my options?

At Krya, we tirelessly advocate the cause of using natural ingredients, close to their natural state and processed in a minimal manner.

In our experiments in our home, and the thousands of consumer emails and phone calls we have received show us how holistically effective substituting simple natural ingredients around the home can be.

A simple ingredient like the Soapberry, which finds its way into all our cleaning products can be safely used in formulations for a natural toothpowder, as a safe cleansing agent for hair which does not strip the hair of its acid mantle or its natural oils, to effectively clean clothes while continuing to maintain their colour and texture and even de-grease and clean your dirty dishes.

BeFunky_Tea_tree_plant.jpg

Natural ingredients are not just safe, they can also be extremely powerful in their actions – tea tree essential oil, for instance is nearly 100 times more effective as an antibacterial agent than carbolic acid

In the next few parts of the Holiday spring cleaning series, we will explore in greater depth several easily available natural alternatives for the home and also look at simple recipes that can be created to substitute synthetic products at home.

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