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Living Chemical Free - Part 2

Ways & Benefits Of Living Chemical Free

Topics for living chemical-free:

Why Should I Be Concerned?

In part one of this series, our lives are more inundated with chemical exposure than we realize. Recent studies have linked exposure to various chemicals and compounds to everything from asthma to cancer. However, our primary concern in this series is about the effects of chemicals on allergy and asthma sufferers. Living chemical-free not only translates into healthier living, but also to peace of mind knowing you are protecting yourself from harmful chemicals.

In the previous article I gave you many commonly-found household chemicals to look out for, and some alternative product ideas. In this article I will take a closer look at the ways we keep our skin and body looking and feeling healthy.

Are There Potentially Harmful Chemicals In My Personal Care Products?

Here are some substances commonly found in personal care items that could be harmful. This list is not intended to scare you, but to educate you on a few ingredients to look out for. In fact, according to the CDC, "a measurable amount of a compound in a person's body does not mean it causes disease or other damage." I have not listed every chemical that I read about in my research, but mainly those that negatively affect our general health, our skin or have irritating effects for asthmatics.

  • SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) is found in toothpaste, shampoo, dish soap, liquid hand soap, bubble bath, and some nutritional supplements. It dries out the lining of mouth (making it susceptible to canker sores), dries skin and causes it to flake and become rough.
  • Propylene Glycol is a humectant (which prevents drying out) used in deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, lotions and shaving gels. According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, this irritant causes a significant number of reactions, including skin dehydration and thickening of the skin, even at low concentrations (below 2%).
  • Aluminum Chlorohydrate is found in many anti-perspirants and prevents pores from perspiring. It is easily absorbed through the skin, particularly when the underarms have been recently shaved. In a 2004 clinical trial aluminum chlorohydrate was linked with higher risks of Alzheimer's.
  • Phthalates (plastic softener, solvent) have been making news recently. A recent study by Swedish researchers published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that higher concentrations of phthalates were associated with symptoms of asthma, hay fever, and eczema. Phthalates are found in hair spray, deodorant, nail polish, hair gel, mousse, hand lotion, body lotion, and perfume, as well as children's toys and PVC plastic. Unfortunately, they're rarely listed on ingredient lists. In addition to asthma and eczema, phthalates have also been shown to damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system.
  • Mineral Oil makes skin feel soft and smooth and is found in liquid foundations, blush, skin creams and baby oil. Ironically, mineral oil, a derivative of petroleum, can also dehydrate skin by inhibiting oils you produce naturally.
  • Fragrances (synthetic) are used in most personal care products unless labeled as truly fragrance free, or only using natural essential oils for fragrance. Synthetic fragrances are made up of hundreds of chemicals.
  • Formaldehyde (preservative, fixative, disinfectant) is found in shampoo, nail care, cosmetics. Formaldehyde can irritate the respiratory system, cause skin reactions and weaken the immune system.
  • Coal tar dye is most commonly used in D&C Blue #1, Green #3, Yellow#5, Yellow #6, Red #33, and phenylenediamine. It is found in shampoos, especially dandruff shampoos, bubble bath, toothpaste and hair dyes. Coal tar dye can cause severe allergic reactions, asthma attacks, headaches, nausea, fatigue, nervousness, and lack of concentration.
  • Alcohol acts as a solvent and is found in mouthwash, astringents and facial cleansers, as well as some toothpaste. The National Cancer Institute (4/22/91) cites alcohols in this context as implicated in mouth, tongue and throat cancers (women have 90% higher risk; men have 60% higher risk than non-mouthwash users). Used on skin, alcohol strips away natural protecting oils, and when ingested, may cause body tissues to be more vulnerable to carcinogens. Damaged skin generally takes 24 hours to repair itself.

What Are Some Safe Alternatives To Chemical-containing Products?

People sensitive to chemicals do have other options. Fortunately, safe, non-toxic products are more commonly available these days. Here are a few skincare and personal care products that we have identified to keep your body safe. For more information about skin care and allergy-related skin conditions, refer to our January 2005 Newsletter.


  • A mix of milk and oatmeal may sound like a hearty breakfast, but it's also a natural face cleanser for dry skin types. The milk moisturizes and nourishes the skin, and oatmeal acts as an exfoliating agent.
  • Vanicream Skin Care products are free of dyes, perfumes, fragrance, lanolin, parabens and formaldehyde. They offer complete chemical-free care for dry, cracking or tired skin. Products available through National Allergy Supply include light lotion, sunscreen, and the popular bar soap.
  • Robathol is a safe bath oil from the makers of Vanicream. It contains NO perfume, lanolin, dyes, or mineral oil and naturally moisturizes skin.
  • AqtivPURE Non-alcohol Hand Sanitizer is a wonderful alternative to common hand sanitizers. AqtivPURE won't dry out hands, and has healing properties to promote healthier skin.
  • MoistStik All-Natural Lip Balm is soothing for dry cracked lips, and offers SPF 15 protection. MoistStik is not advised for lanolin-sensitive individuals.
  • Green Mountain's Naturally Pure Soap is made the way nature intended soap to be. It is moisturizing, highly effective and contains no color or fragrance additives. It is available in bar or liquid form.

Hair & Body

  • Combine ¬ Cup lemon juice with _ cup water and rinse your hair for a natural alternative to chemically-laden hair dyes and highlights. A little time in the sun will activate the lemon juice's bleaching properties.
  • Free & Clear Hair Care products, from the makers of Vanicream are also free from potentially harmful chemicals. The line includes Shampoo and Conditioner, Hairspray, and a gentle Liquid Cleanser.
  • Naturally Fresh Deodorant uses only pure mineral salts. It contains no perfumes, alcohols or aluminum, and it won't block your pores. It comes in stick, roll-on and spray forms.
  • A few drops of hydrogen peroxide mixed with baking soda makes a super cleansing toothpaste. Use this formula about once every 2 weeks as a natural tooth cleaner and whitener.

Could My Home's Water Supply Be Exposing Me To Unwanted Chemicals?

One of the biggest chemical culprits in our homes is chlorine in our water. However, as I researched the prevalence of chlorine and other chemicals in the water, I was presented with a great irony. For developing nations and those in disaster situations, such as the tsunami victims in Asia, the presence of chlorine in their water is perhaps their greatest life-saver because it disinfects from harmful organisms. However, the extent to which those in certain developing nations are exposed to chlorine through drinking water and showers is minimal compared to those of us in developed nations who may experience more serious levels of exposure. In fact, scientific studies have linked chlorinated water to potentially harmful by-products that can, over time, contribute to such health-threatening conditions as cancer of the bladder, liver, stomach and colon. Heart disease, high blood pressure and allergies have also been linked to chlorine.

Drinking Water
Our bodies are 70% water and must be replenished daily, so drinking good quality water is very important. Many counter-top and under-sink filters are available to remove chlorine and other irritants. In addition to the presence of chlorine, recent research has also shown noticeable levels of various other types of chemicals in drinking water. Sometimes called "emergent contamination", this new class of substances showing up in our drinking water includes traces of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, as well as industrial run-off from farms and factories. The effect of these contaminants is unknown, and the amounts are so small that any problems would probably manifest from consistent long-term exposure.

Shower Water
Many people use installed or counter-top water filters to minimize their exposure through drinking water. In-home water filtration not only contributes to good health, but it helps the environment and our budgets because we're not buying and disposing of hundreds of bottles of water each month. What many people may not know about chlorine exposure is that half of it occurs in the shower. Unfiltered shower water can double exposure to chlorine by absorption through the skin and by inhalation of chlorine vapors. Chlorine vaporizes in hot shower water and is inhaled into the lungs, then transferred into the blood stream.

Because of this absorption process and the potentially harmful effects of chlorine, we recommend shower water filters such as the Sprite Royale Handheld Filter, which minimizes exposure to chlorine, as well as other potentially dangerous chemicals that have been found in the water supply. The further benefits of such filters are softer hair and smoother skin.


If you are concerned about what, if any, other substances may be in your home's water, visit the EPA's "What's In My Water" site for specific information on your town or county's water supply. For those who have well water, the EPA's website offers information so you can find out more about possible chemicals, metals or other substances in your water.

The topic of water purification is an extremely broad one that we can only touch on in this article. Equally far reaching is the general subject of chemical avoidance. So many household elements have implications for our readers that we needed two articles to tackle the topic! I truly hope this month's tips and information, combined with last month's newsletter, have helped you discover some ways to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful substances.

Go Back To Part I

This information is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.


Article Quick Read
  • Living chemical-free not only translates into healthier living, but also to peace of mind knowing you are protecting yourself from harmful chemicals.
  • Fortunately, safe, non-toxic products are more commonly available than they used to be.
  • One of the biggest chemical culprits in our homes is chlorine in our water.
  • Recent research has also shown noticeable levels of various other types of chemicals in drinking water.
  • Chlorine vaporizes in hot shower water and is inhaled into the lungs, then transferred into the blood stream.