Healthy Home Blog – The Bathroom
In the first Healthy Home Blog we covered tips and hints for making your kitchen a happier & healthier place for you and your family. Today’s blog is dedicated to the bathroom and the health and beauty items you use there. We’ll look in the shower, under the sink, and in the medicine cabinet. Let’s start in the shower…
Nothing starts the day like a refreshing shower or ends the day with a warm, soothing bath. Who supplies your water? Do you have city water or a well? Both have their positives and negatives. City water looks and feels clean but it comes with a downside.
City water is often fluoridated, chlorinated and has aluminum for ‘added clarity’. Fluoride is controversial. In contrast to other chemicals added to water, fluoride does not treat the water, or make the water safer to drink. Fluoride is the only chemical added to water for the sole purpose of medication (to prevent tooth decay — a non-waterborne disease). Even though it’s been added to the public water supply for years here in the United States, other countries, like those in the European Union, no longer fluoridate the water. Less than 10 countries in the world fluoridate more than 50% of their water supplies, while almost half of the world’s population drinking fluoridated water reside in North America (Canada & US). It is considered a drug (it is an ingredient in the prescription drug Prozac – fluoxetine hydrochloride). The main fluoride chemical added to water (hydrofluorosilicic acid) is an industrial by-product from the phosphate fertilizer industry. Unlike the fluoride used in toothpaste, hydrofluorosilicic acid is not pharmaceutical-grade quality. It is an unpurified, industrial-grade, corrosive acid which has been linked, in several recent studies, to increased levels of lead in children’s blood. As you shower and bath, the water is absorbed into the pores. The steam from a hot shower or bath is absorbed into the lungs. You absorb the fluoride into your body. You may think to yourself, “but my dentist says fluoride is good for my teeth so that’s ok”. Is it?
Not Necessarily. Most dental researchers now concede that fluoride’s main benefit comes from direct contact with the outside of teeth (topical application), and not from ingestion (a “systemic” intake). There is no need to swallow or absorb fluoride through the skin to prevent tooth decay. This negates the adding of fluoride to the water supply to ingest in order to strengthen teeth and bones!
What are potential risks from consuming or absorbing fluoridated water? Recent studies in peer-reviewed medical literature indicate that fluoridated water can have detrimental side effects. Health risks associated with low-to-moderate doses of fluoride include: dental fluorosis; bone fracture; bone cancer; joint pain; skin rash, reduced thyroid activity; and IQ deficits.
Now that you know some of the risks of fluoride in your city water, let’s talk about ways to avoid absorbing it into your system. If you can, a whole-house filtration system is best. This filters all the water throughout the home whether it’s coming through the kitchen sink, shower or laundry area. Be sure to research about micron sizes of the filter because fluoride is difficult to remove through typical carbon filtration methods. Shower filtration systems are also available that are installed inside the shower head. Another way to reduce exposure is to limit shower and bath times and to keep the water warm instead of hot, thus reducing steam exposure in the respiratory system.
We’ve talked about the water supply. Now let’s discuss your shampoos, conditioners and soaps. Most health and beauty products do not go through rigorous testing by the FDA. Many products are tested by the companies that produce them. Kind of like the fox guarding the hen house. We’ve seen how Johnson & Johnson was sued over the carcinogen in their baby powder. Another offender years ago was red dye in lipsticks.
Shampoos often contain Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) or SLES – Sodium Laureth Sulfate. These are foaming agents used in cosmetic products and industrial cleaners. You’ll see these ingredients in body washes, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and laundry detergent. According to Mercola.com, although SLS is derived from coconuts, it is contaminated with a toxic byproduct during the manufacturing process (1,4 dioxane). It is a possible carcinogen, may have a negative effect in the kidneys, liver and central nervous system – according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review reports that SLS & SLES are irritants at concentrations of 2 percent or greater, and recommends that cosmetic products should not contain concentrations greater than 1 percent. Undiluted SLS can cause skin and eye irritation, as well as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Again, it’s important to read ingredient labels to determine what products are safest for you and your family.
The Medicine Cabinet
Every household is going to feature something different in their medicine cabinet. We’ll review some of the more popular items you may find there. Let’s take a look at toothpaste, nail polish, mouth wash, deodorant, prescription medications and cologne/perfume.
Most conventional toothpastes contain the two ingredients we’ve mentioned above: sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate and fluoride. The first being a foaming agent which serves no purpose health-wise or medicinally and the second ingredient, although naturally occurring in minute amounts, is controversial for the issues stated earlier. It is easily absorbed into the lining of the mouth. Read the package it comes in. It states it is harmful if swallowed. Consider switching to a non-fluoride toothpaste that doesn’t include the foaming agents. You can make your own toothpaste too, and it’s simple. There are many variations but here is one from DrAxe.com:
Homemade Baking Soda Toothpaste
Total Time: 2 minutes (may take longer for coconut oil to liquefy)
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2–4 tablespoons baking soda or a combination of baking soda and sea salt
- Up to 1 tablespoon xylitol powder (optional)
- 20 drops cinnamon or clove essential oil (optional)
- 20 drops peppermint essential oil (optional)
- small glass jar
- Place coconut oil container in a bowl of hot water to liquefy it (depending on your room temperature, this may take up to 15 minutes).
- Measure all ingredients into bowl and stir until completely blended.
- Store the finished product in a lidded glass jar.
Toothpaste can also contain ingredients like titanium dioxide, propylene glycol, saccharin and artificial colors/flavors. These may have detrimental effects on the nervous system and a couple are possible carcinogens (cancer causing).
Now let’s discuss nail polish. Nail polish was first used almost 2500 years ago in China and since then has become a mainstay among women and girls all over the world. Initially, the colors were made from organic products like beeswax, egg whites, fish-bone powder, and naturally available dyes.
Over time, chemicals made their way into the polishes, which women apply on their nails today. Everything from organic polymers and many other synthetic components are added to nail colors.
Again – read ingredient labels.
The dangers of TPHP – Research conducted recently at the Duke University in association with Environmental Working Group, a leading public health advocacy organization, revealed that our nails tend to absorb a minimum of one hormone-disrupting and potentially-toxic chemical when we apply nail polish on them. The study revealed the presence of triphenyl phosphate(1) (TPHP), a highly toxic, endocrine-disrupting chemical used extensively in almost all leading nail paints, in more than 24 participants. The chemical was found only 10 to 14 hours after the participants had polished their nails. The level of diphenyl phosphate, a toxic metabolite of TPHP, was also found increased by roughly sevenfold. More than 1,500 nail paint products, including those manufactured by leading brands such as Wet N Wild, OPI, and Sally Hansen, contain high levels of TPHP. More disturbing is the fact that numerous companies actually fail to disclose the products’ complete list of ingredients and, therefore, certain nail paints are likely to contain toxic chemicals that we don’t know. In the study, researchers tested ten nail polishes, out of which two had high levels of TPHP, but the companies did not list the chemical on their labels.
It is not just TPHP in nail polish that is a concern.
Most Common Ingredients Found in Traditional Nail Polishes:
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
- Formaldehyde (or derivatives)
- Butyl or ethyl acetate
The above ingredients are known endocrine disruptors, allergens and may cause reproductive harm.
The best alternative to nail polish is simply to keep your nails natural. You may also consider more natural polishes that are available in health food stores but keep in mind these still may contain chemicals. Read the labels and know that some labels are not all-inclusive of what is contained therein.
Moving on to mouth wash. You’ve brushed your teeth and now want the added protection of mouth wash to keep your mouth ‘minty fresh’. What is contained in mouth wash?
From “MedicalDaily.com” – “The American Dental Association does not recommend the use of mouthwash without a dentist’s advice. Depending on each person’s oral hygiene needs, a dentist can suggest using a mouthwash with fluoride or antimicrobial agents as part of their daily oral hygiene routine. Overall, mouthwash users who constantly rely on a battle to hide bad breath should visit their dentist to see if it’s attributed to an underlying cause that could be fixed.”
From a naturopathic viewpoint, bad breath may indicate a digestive issue. Mouthwash serves only to mask the symptoms of a deeper disorder so keep this in mind if you continue to use it.
Here are a few other things to know about mouth wash:
- Reduces Production of Saliva due to content of alcohol.
- Excessive Irritation of the mouth, tongue, and teeth due to decreased saliva
- Kills good bacteria as well as the bad which can lead to cavities and tooth loss.
- May change the color of teeth
- Tooth Sensitivity due to erosion of the protective layer
- Increase Risk of Oral Cancer due to alcohol content
With that in mind, here is a natural mouth was recipe from DrAxe.com:
- 5 drops peppermint essential oil
- 5 drops tea tree essential oil
- 3 drops spearmint essential oil
- 3 drops lemon essential oil
- 3 cups spring water
- 1 tablespoon calcium carbonate powder
- 8 drops concentrated trace minerals liquid
- 6 drops liquid pure stevia optional
Using a mason jar or BPA-free plastic bottle, add the spring water, calcium carbonate powder and the trace minerals. Mix with a spoon.
Using spring water helps eliminate any bacteria that could come from regular tap water and since we are not using preservatives, that is important. Calcium carbonate provides strength for bones. Yes, your teeth are made up of bones. Keeping those pearly whites healthy, in addition to keeping your gums healthy, is critical. Trace minerals offer excellent antioxidants, which helps repair cell damage.
Next add the essential oils. Peppermint essential oil provides fresh breath, but why not get the benefits of antimicrobial properties while you’re at it. And spearmint essential oil, being a relative of peppermint, does the same thing while adding a nice taste to your mouthwash. Spearmint also helps fight gingivitis.
Tea tree essential oil is a great alternative for good oral health since it helps fight bacteria and gingivitis. It also eases any inflammation that may be present in the mouth ultimately helping speed along the healing process.
Lemon essential oil helps add a little whitening sparkle to your teeth. While you don’t want to overdo it, this is a great way to keep those teeth on the whiter side without having to go for the chemical versions. If you need a little sweetness, you can add pure liquid stevia. Put the lid on and give it a good shake or two.
To use take a small sip, then swish your homemade mouthwash around in your mouth, gargling periodically for 20–30 seconds. Then spit out. Do not swallow. You can store it in a dark place or the fridge.
Now it’s time to talk about the pits – armpits! Deodorants and anti-perspirants provide dryness, odor control and freedom from embarrassment when people are close to us. As with any of the products we discuss, there’s the downside to the ingredients. Deodorants do just that – control odor. Anti-perspirants block sweat coming from the pores (most anti-perspirants are also deodorants but it’s possible to purchase deodorant alone). The FDA considers deodorants to be cosmetic: a product intended to cleanse or beautify. It considers antiperspirants to be a drug: a product intended to treat or prevent disease or affect the structure or function of the body.
Propylene glycol, aluminum, artificial colors, artificial scents and preservatives are applied to a sensitive area with close proximity to lymph glands & breast tissue when deodorants or anti-perspirants are applied.
Propylene glycol is an industrial lubricant: a by-product of refined oil and the main ingredient in anti-freeze. It is found in many health and beauty products to produce viscosity and is commonly found in both deodorants & anti-perspirants. You’ll even find it in some food products including pet foods. Propylene glycol may cause reactions in people taking certain prescription medications. According to the Environmental Working Group, propylene glycol can cause a whole host of problems. It is rated a 3 by this organization, which is categorized as a “moderate” health issue. It has been shown to be linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive issues, allergies/immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and organ system toxicity. It has been found to provoke skin irritation and sensitization in humans in as low as 2% concentration, while the industry review panel recommends cosmetics can contain up to 50% of the substance. It has also been classified as “expected to be toxic or harmful” by Environment Canada, yet the FDA categorizes it as “GRAS” – generally regarded as safe.
Aluminum – a metal – is the ingredient used in anti-perspirants that blocks the pores to prevent sweating. Keep in mind that sweating is a natural process and lymph nodes are found in the axillary (armpit) area and nearby breast tissue. Lymph nodes are responsible for helping the body detoxify. These glands help ‘take out the trash’ so to speak.
A study on breast cancer in 2009 showed there is a possible link associated with aluminum in antiperspirants and the development of breast cancer. Since this product is placed so close to the breast nearly every day, the repeated exposure to the metal for such extended amounts of time is likely unsafe and further testing must be done. Other studies that claim aluminum is safe have failed to consider how long-term exposure effects the human body, particularly the human breast.
Aluminum exposure at consistent levels has also been implicated in Alzheimers, possible reproductive issues and with extreme levels of exposure oxidative damage and other forms of cancer.
More specifically, Aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine is the aluminum health & beauty companies use in anti-perspirants. This ingredient is prohibited and restricted in cosmetics and other beauty products in Canada and Europe. Why have they banned and restricted this ingredient in personal care items, yet the US still continues unrestricted use in health and beauty products?
Let’s touch on prescription medications stored in the medicine cabinet. Prescription drugs contain a variety of chemicals. Keep in mind that they are heat and moisture sensitive. It’s best to store prescription drugs in a cool, dry place to keep them safe and effective. The same goes for colognes and perfumes. Many people store them in the bathroom where it is convenient but a better area is the bedroom or any other room that is cool and dry. Temperature and humidity can spoil these products. Because colognes and perfumes contain many toxic chemicals, consider using essential oils instead of colognes and perfumes. Again, essential oils are best stored in cool, dry areas to keep them potent.
Let’s go exploring in the cabinet under the sink. Some of you may store your bathroom cleaning supplies in this area. Refer to cleaning tips from the Healthy Home Kitchen blog. These same products work well in the bathroom, too including the toilet! You may store make-up under your cabinet. We ladies love our make-up but our make-up doesn’t always love us – including moisturizers we apply on our face and body. Whatever we apply to our skin absorbs into our bloodstream. Many cosmetic companies self-regulate with their own testing. “The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act contains no provision that requires demonstration to the FDA on the safety of ingredients in cosmetic products prior to marketing the product. The FDA’s position leaves safety testing optional. The safety panel established and funded by the industry’s main trade association to dampen enthusiasm for stronger regulation, has in its 30-year history reviewed just 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients that the FDA has documented in personal care products.” Source: article by Margo Doll, NC, Global College of Natural Medicine newsletter, 2/07.
Cosmetics and lotions/creams can contain alcohol, propylene glycol, talc, toluene and more. Alcohol is drying to the skin, has an increased risk of oral & throat cancers and affects the respiratory tract and central nervous systems. You’ll find it in hair spray, hair gel and facial cleansers and toners. Propylene glycol is the petroleum by-product mentioned earlier and is used as an industrial lubricant. You’ll find it lurking in lotions, creams & sunscreens to improve viscosity. Propylene glycol is a known skin irritant and can cause kidney and liver issues. Talc is related to the asbestos family and has been linked to lung disorders, ovarian cancer and yet it was used in baby powder. Johnson & Johnson was recently sued and paid out settlements for over $2 billion dollars in relation to its baby powder in relation to its causing ovarian cancer. Toluene, (most commonly listed on a package as “fragrance”), is a carcinogen that effects the central nervous system. It’s known to cause cancer, liver & lung damage, trigger allergic reactions, asthma attacks & cause birth defects. Titanium Dioxide is a whitening agent found in toothpastes, sunscreens, eye shadows and lotions. The processing of titanium dioxide (in some but not all processes), can leave it in nano-particle form so it is easily absorbed in the skin. One of the biggest concerns of TiO2 nanoparticles is that it can be inhaled. Studies have shown that inhalation of titanium dioxide can be carcinogenic (cancer causing), and cause cellular instability or chronic inflammation.
This is a small example of the ingredients in make-up, lotions and creams that have potentially negative affects on health. Read labels, educate yourself and use safer alternatives if you can or limit the use of these products when possible. Super model Cindy Crawford said some years ago that on her days off, she wouldn’t wear make-up. She’d wear a pair of sunglasses if she went out in public but refrained from wearing make-up in order to give her skin a rest.
It’s important to read labels and to understand what each ingredient can do to your health. Here’s hoping that the information contained herein is useful for you and your family and that you implement some natural alternatives into your life.
-Angela Welch, Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, (AADP, DiHom-Pract)