Is your bathroom cabinet bulging with toxins? Is your make-up or toilet bag a cocktail of chemicals that could do you harm? Yes is probably the answer to both questions. Check out the ingredients list on your bottles and jars: the higher up the list these 15 come, the greater the concentration. So chuck out the offenders, look before you buy and invest in safer alternatives.
1: Formaldehyde Combined with water, this toxic gas is used as a disinfectant, fixative, germicide and preservative in deodorants, liquid soaps, nail varnish and shampoos. Also known as formalin, formal and methyl aldehyde, it is a suspected human carcinogen and has caused lung cancer in rats. It can damage DNA, irritate the eyes, upper respiratory tract and mucous membrane, and may cause asthma and headaches. It is banned in Japan and Sweden.
2: Phthalates hit the headlines last year for being "gender benders". They are a family of industrial plasticisers already banned in the EU from being used in plastic toys, but are still in hairsprays, top-selling perfumes and nail varnishes. They can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled as fumes and ingested from contaminated food or breastfeeding. Animal studies have shown they can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system -especially developing testes. They are banned in the EU from being used in plastic toys, but are still in toiletries
3: Parabens are listed as alkyl parahydroxy benzoates -butyll methyl/ethyl/ propyllisobutyl paraben on some toothpastes, moisturisers and deodorants. They are used as a preservative, but are oestrogen mimics. Research suggests that parabens in antiperspirant deodorants can cause breast cancer. Oestrogen-type chemicals have also been linked to testicular cancer and a reduction in sperm count.
4: Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) is one of the major ingredients in nearly every shampoo, bubble bath, liquid soap etc. Why, when it is a known skin irritant, stops hair growth, can cause cataracts in adults, damage children's eye development and cause urinary tract infection? It's cheap and produces lots of bubbles when mixed with salt. Hardly compensation! Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) is a slightly less irritant form of SLS, but may cause more drying. Both can lead to potentially carcinogenic cocktails of nitrites and dioxins forming in shampoos and cleansers, by reacting with other ingredients.
5: Toluene is a common solvent found in nail enamels, hair gels, hair spray, and perfumes. It is a neurotoxin and can damage the liver, disrupt the endocrine system and cause asthma.
6: Alpha Hydroxy Acid Long-term skin damage can result from using products containing AHAs (sometimes listed as triple fruit acids, lactic acid, sugar cane extract or glycolic acid). They exfoliate, not only damaged layers of skin but the skin's protective barrier as well. This can decrease protection from the sun by 30 per cent and increase the absorption of chemical ingredients never meant get through.
7: Alcohol We're talking about the kind found in ingestible products here, like mouthwash. Children have died from accidentally swallowing too much of it. Mouthwashes with an alcohol content of 25 per cent or more have been linked to mouth, tongue and throat cancers.
8: Propylene GIycoI is a cosmetic form of mineral oil (refined crude oil) used in industrial antifreeze. People handling it are warned by the manufacturer to avoid skin contact and wear respirators and rubber gloves etc, and yet this is a major ingredient in most moisturisers, skin creams, baby wipes and sun screens. Why? It's cheap and gives the "glide" factor in body lotions - but is in fact robbing lower layers of skin of moisture. Lanolin and collagen also clog pores and cause skin to age faster than if nothing was used.
9: Talc is recognised as carcinogenic and has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer and general urinary tract disorders. So don't dust it on your baby's, or anyone else's, bottom!
10: Parfum/perfume A typical cosmetic can contain up to 100 chemicals in the perfume alone! 95 per cent of these chemicals are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum -26 of which are on an EU hit list. Fragrances have been linked to allergies and breathing difficulties and they penetrate the skin.
11: Xylene is listed as xytol or dimethylbenzene on nail varnish bottles. It can damage your liver, is narcotic in high concentrations and causes skin and respiratory tract irritation.
12: Diethanolamine Also Tri and Mono (DEA, TEA and MEA) are absorbed through skin where they accumulate in products also containing nitrates, they react and form nitrosamines which are carcigonemic.
13: Aluminium is found in most deodorants and has been linked to Alzheimer's. If you want to stay alert, and still smell fresh and clean switch to a safer one.
14: Triclosan sometimes listed as 5-chloro-2 (2,4-dichlorophenoxy) phenol, is in deodorants, toothpastes, vaginal washes and mouthwashes. Toxic dioxins are produced during its manufacture or incineration. It is stored in breast milk and in fish, and can break down in water to create a member of the dioxin family.
15: Paraphenylenediamine or PPD is used in dark hair dyes. Tests on rats have shown that PPD may cause cancer, after long-term use with hydrogen peroxide. It has been implicated in numerous bladder cancer cases in California. The perfect excuse to go blonde?