Get the lead out

I was very fortunate to attend Environmental Defence‘s #EcoBeautyMarket tweet-up event this week.  I made my way through the room, checking out vendors toting all sorts of cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, creams, deodorants, and lip balms, all of which were free of the harmful chemicals that are prevalent in the same sort of items you might pick up at Shoppers Drug Mart or Loblaws.

Think, for a moment, of your morning routine. After you complain at your alarm clock and at the fact that it’s still pitch black outside and your bed is just so warm and comfy. On any given day you maybe wash your face, brush your teeth, shower, shave, apply makeup, etc. By the time you’ve left the door for work or school, you’ve put up to 100 chemicals on and in your body. (Yes gentlemen, you too).

But so what, right?  I mean, if products are sold to the public, they have to pass some sort of test, right? Safeguards in place to protect the consumer?  Well, 85% of cosmetics are not tested for human safety!

Turns out there are loopholes in the cosmetics industry that allow companies to include ingredients without our knowledge. Just one example: if an ingredient contributes to a product’s scent, it doesn’t have to be listed under the ingredients. This makes sense – companies don’t want to list their secret and proprietary recipe on the back of each of their products. But it also means you don’t actually know what you’re putting on your skin, your hair, your lips.  How can consumers be expected to make informed choices without being informed?

In the late ’90s when it was discovered that the paint on childrens’ toys contained traces of lead, there was a massive recall. But certain lipsticks still contain lead, and are not recalled. Lipstick, a product intended to go on your lips, can have lead it in.

There’s also an assumption that, hey, okay, the chemicals in your products are harmful, but they’re only present in tiny tiny quantities. Yet think how many times you brush your teeth, or apply lipstick, or use shampoo – those tiny tiny quantities can build up faster than your body can flush them out.

Rick Smith used himself as a guinea pig, and over a 48-hour period of using products with triclosan (found, most worryingly, in Colgate Total) and other chemicals prevalent in many of our daily products, levels of these chemicals skyrocketed in his system.  While Health Canada has cleared triclosan as safe for human use, it has been linked to the creation of superbugs and, as something we often rinse down the drain, has negative effects on our environment.

And this is just one of the hundreds of chemicals present in our cosmetics and household products.

At the end of the evening, the feeling in the room was clear – we wish we had known all this information before the vendors had packed up, because we would have picked up more items!  I had an urge to rush home and dump the contents of my medicine cabinet in to the trash.

That’s when There’s Lead in My Lipstick author Gill Deacon calmed us down – it’s not about throwing everything out. It’s about being more selective with your purchases, and what you put on and in your body.  Remember – your skin is an organ. What goes on your body, ends up in your body.

If you’re interested in learning more about this, Environmental Defence has got lots of terrific information.

As an aside, you might also enjoy movies like Food Inc. and Tapped. (Since watching Tapped, I haven’t had any bottled water or water from a water cooler).

Curious about what companies strive to get the lead (and triclosan, and parabens, etc) out of their products? Here are just a few:

At the market I scored The Basic Element‘s rosemary candelilla lip balm and clay facial soap, and citrus deodorant from Green Beaver. They’re Canadian products (yay!), and cost pretty much the same as the brand-name versions I normally buy. But do they work? Better than my regular products.
(Disclaimer: I don’t know if all eco-beauty products outperform their chemical-filled counterparts, but I am confident that there are competitively-priced and high-performing eco-beauty products out there, and worth the hunt).
So take a chance, #treatyoself, and try out an eco-friendly product. It’s not about clearing your shelves and relying solely on water and baking soda to clean every surface of your body and house… but if you can avoid putting questionable chemicals in your body… why wouldn’t you?
What are your thoughts on all this? Would you ever substitute your daily products with an eco-friendly version? Or is it too granola for you?
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