close to midnight and I wasn’t being able to sleep. See, I’ve had this
irritating allergy for about seven years now. My eyes swell up and get all
puffy and raw, and the skin around the eyes itches in a strange way from the
inside. A helpful and well-meaning skin specialist had told me to think about
how I spend my day, what I eat, what I use, what I wear... you get the picture.
midnight, I had this moment of inspiration and I decided to explore my life a
little. I tip-toed around the house, collecting bottles from the bathroom, the
fridge and the kitchen. My plan was simple: list the things that I use on a
daily basis and try and isolate the problem ingredient. Blackie, our adopted
street dog, (variously called Bilkis, Blankie, and Bucket), followed me around,
wagging her chrysanthemum-like tail, hoping for a mid-night snack. I gave her
some dog biscuits and settled down on the sofa for some heavy-duty midnight
were arranged all around me and my laptop was hooked to the Internet. I was
ready to go. I must confess, though, that I felt slightly guilty about the
whole thing. After all, responsible companies run by responsible, upright
people had spent millions of dollars testing these products in every possible
way, and here I was, a Doubting Thomas, sneakily checking up on them at
midnight. I felt somewhat like a burglar, but what to do? My allergy had driven
me to desperation.
So, how did
I spend my day? I began by brushing my teeth with the extra whitener
toothpaste. I picked up my favourite toothpaste and listed the ingredients.
My tooth paste X Advanced Whitener has the following ingredients: Silica Sorbitol, Glycerine, Sodium fluoride.
It also said that children under 6 years of age should use it under adult
supervision and only a ‘pea’ amount. It also said ‘Do not swallow, spit and
to go after sodium fluoride and googled it on the laptop.
that kidneys can eliminate only about 50% of the daily fluoride intake.
The rest gets absorbed in calcified tissues, like bones and teeth. For the
average individual, a retention of 2mg/day would result in crippling skeletal
fluorosis after 40 years. Small children, even if pea-size amount is used, will
still absorb the same, more if the child is younger and has less swallowing
control skills. Half a tube of toothpaste can kill a child.
So my toothpaste was
not the culprit. Sodium Fluoride didn’t cause any allergies as far as I could
tell. And now I knew how to pop off annoying children. Not bad, for
ten-minute’s worth of research.
my eyes a bit and moved on. After brushing, I normally shave and put on an
after shave lotion. I checked on the lotion.
content : Alcohol denatured with 1% diethyl phthalate.
Off to the
Internet, again. I found that phthalates are a family of chemical
plasticizers that are used in personal care products as solvents and to
moisturize skin. They are almost synonymous with fragrance. Phthalates have
been shown to cause birth defects, reproductive impairments, and liver damage
in lab animals.
That was cool, then, no allergies.
I also found that manufacturers are not required to list the
ingredients used in ‘fragrance’, but common ingredients also include methylene
chloride, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, ethyl alcohol
and benzyl chloride, all of which are hazardous. According to the American
Academy of Dermatology, ‘fragrance’ is the number one cause of allergic
reactions in cosmetics.
There it was! An allergy caused by fragrance. But it didn’t
mention diethyl phthalate, specifically, so maybe this wasn’t it. I decide to
Okay, so next I have a bath, sometimes I shampoo my hair and
sometimes, when it’s hot I apply talcum powder. I prefer A talcum powder and
use B, or C and, on occasion, D
shampoo. Actually, to tell the truth, it depends on what my wife is using.
So I started listing the ingredients. Now it started getting
a bit complicated. If I hadn’t had the allergy for seven years I would have
given up right here. Here’s the list of ingredients:
contained Sodium Laureth Sulfate,
Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Sodium Chloride, Glucerin, Glycol Distearate,
Hexylene Glycol, Cocamide Mipa, Polyquaternium 10, Disodium Ricinoleamido
MEA-Sulfosuccinate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Butylparaben, Hexyl Cinnamal, Ethylparaben,
Hydroxypropyltrimonium hydrolized wheat protein, Isopropanolamine,
Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Magnesium acetate,
2-Oleamido-13-Octadecanediol, Linalool, Asparitic Acid, Glycine, Arginine,
+#@$%? Was this rocket fuel or a shampoo? Ummm, I think I’ll go for this
polyquarternium 10 thing. Click, click, type, type, enter.
are toxic, cause skin rashes and allergic reactions. They are formaldehyde releasers.
Dr Epstein reports in his book that there is substantive evidence of casual
relation to leukaemia, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and other
the allergy again. This Sodium Laureth Sulfate also sounds promising. Click,
click, type, type, enter.
Lauryl Sulfate is found in soaps and shampoos and is exactly the same as
you would find in a car wash or even a garage, where it is used to degrease car
engines. In the same way as it dissolves the grease on car engines, sodium
lauryl sulfate dissolves the oils on your skin, which can cause a drying
effect. It is also well documented that it denatures skin proteins, which
causes not only irritation, but also allows environmental contaminants easier
access to the lower, sensitive layers of the skin.
Perhaps most worryingly, SLS is also absorbed into the body from
skin application. Once it has been absorbed, one of the main effects of sodium
lauryl sulfate is to mimic the activity of the hormone oestrogen. This may be
responsible for a variety of health problems from PMS and Menopausal symptoms to dropping male fertility and
increasing female cancers
such as breast cancer,
where oestrogen levels are known to be involved.
No allergies there, as far as I could tell.
B– A Delightful Experience, contained Cetearyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol,
Chlorohexidine Dihydrochloride, Glyceryl Stearate, Hydrogenated Patrimonium
Chloride, Methylparaben, Quaternium-80, Tilia Cordata Flower extract, Parfum /
glycol (PG) is a petroleum derivative. It penetrates the skin and can weaken
protein and cellular structure. Commonly used to make extracts from herbs. PG
is strong enough to remove barnacles from boats! The EPA considers PG so toxic
that it requires workers to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles and to
dispose of any PG solutions by burying them in the ground. Because PG
penetrates the skin so quickly, the EPA warns against skin contact to prevent
consequences such as brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities. But there isn't
even a warning label on products such as stick deodorants, where the
concentration is greater than in most industrial applications. I remembered the
time when my father-in-law had tried a deodorant stick and then roamed around
the house in a vest for a week because of the allergy he had in his armpits.
getting hooked to this, so I continued.
Baby Shampoo contained Sodium Lauroamphoacetate,
Polysorbate20, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, PEG-150 Distearate, Cocoamidopropyl
Betaine, PPG-2-Hydroxyethyl Cocamide, Cetyl Triethylmonium Dimethicone, PEG-8
Succinate, Acrylamidopropyltrimonium ChloridelAcrylamide Copolymer,
Polyquarternium-10, Quaternium-15, Fragrance, Benzyl alcohol, Tetrasodium EDTA,
Lots of quarterniums here. Why not try something else?
Dimethicone? Click, click, type, type, enter.
Silicone emollients are occlusive, that is, they coat the
skin, trapping anything beneath it, and do not allow the skin to breathe (much
like plastic wrap would do.) Recent studies have indicated that prolonged
exposure of the skin to sweat, by occlusion, causes skin irritation. Some
synthetic emollients are known tumour promoters and accumulate in the liver and
lymph nodes. They are also non-biodegradable, causing negative environmental
Facial Cream Mask. I don’t use this, okay! It just came along
with all the other stuff that the wife uses. It contains Butylene Glycol,
Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Ethyhexyl Stearate, Butyrospermum ParkII,
Cyclopentasiloxane, Methyl Gluceth-20, GlycerylPolymethacrylate, cetyl Alcohol,
Ammonium Acryloldimethyl Taurate, Ribes Nicrum, Tocopheryl Acetate,
Imidazolidinyl, Urea, Propylene glycol, Sodium benzoate, Ethylenediamine,
Denatonium Benzoate, Butyl Paraben.
chemicals… so little time. Ummm...I’ll go for Butyl Paraben. Click, click,
type, type, enter.
are used as inhibitors of microbial growth and to extend the shelf-life of
products. Widely used even though they are known to be toxic. Have caused many
allergic reactions and skin rashes. Highly toxic. Harmful if swallowed or
inhaled. Cause irritation to skin, eyes and respiratory tract. May cause
allergic skin reaction. Eye contact causes irritation, redness, and pain.
cream mask that causes skin rashes!
of my talcum powder – Triclosan, Isopropyl Myristate.
please, it has a nice ring to it. Click, click, type, type, enter.
(in talcum and toothpastes) could be, and is suspected to be, contaminated with
dioxins. Dioxins can be found in triclosan as impurities formed during the
manufacturing process. Researchers who added triclosan to river water and
exposed it to ultraviolet light found that a significant portion of the
triclosan was converted to dioxins, raising fears that sunlight could transform
triclosan to dioxins naturally. A study by researchers at Virginia Polytechnic
Institute finds that triclosan reacts with chlorine molecules in tap water to
form chlorinated dioxins, which are highly toxic forms of dioxin. The same
study also found that the combination of tap water and triclosan produces
significant quantities of chloroform, which is a probable human carcinogen.
Production of chloroform and dioxins may also be a problem in pools, where
there are high levels of chlorine that can react to triclosan residues on
My mosquito repellent lotion – Diethyltoluamide
Diethyltoluamide has not been studied in pregnant women.
However, studies in animals have shown that diethyltoluamide is passed on to
the offspring. One animal study has shown diethyltoluamide to cause death of
the foetus. Before using diethyltoluamide, make sure your doctor knows if you
are pregnant or if you may become pregnant.
Toilet Cleaner (Lemon) – Hydrochloric Acid, Benzalkonium
Chloride, Amine Ethoxylate, Acid Brilliant Blue, Perfume.
Benzalkonium Chloride is corrosive and toxic, It causes
burns. It is harmful by inhalation, ingestion and through skin contact. May
cause reproductive defects.
about my allergy? Forget the allergy, the question gnawing my mind now is, with
all these chemicals in my body, what about my soul? Who knows, maybe the soul
is just another chemical compound. Perhaps a company is toiling right now to
develop denaturised 5% soul patches that are to be worn on the arm when you
have a soul craving.