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We would like to think that all of our investigative reporting on the
hazardous ingredients in cosmetic products is making a difference among
manufacturers. It is among some, and we've helped a number of companies
who've come to us to clean up their products. Some companies, of course,
like Aubrey Organics, never needed our help. They've gotten it all along.
They've been producing toxin-free shampoos for a long time. But perhaps
you've never really truly appreciated the advantages of nontoxic cosmetics.
If so, we hope that this report will demonstrate their importance to your
Certainly, when it comes to some of the nation's most popular mainstream
shampoos, we get the feeling some companies still don't get it. They don't
understand that a growing number of consumers expect more from their
products, including the absence of potentially hazardous chemicals. This is
especially the case for a whole generation of younger consumers who expect
no less than truly natural, toxin-free ingredients.
DEA in Shampoos
Take the case of the suspect cancer-causing agent diethanolamine (DEA),
which is used as an emulsifier and foaming agent in shampoos. We reported
early on that the federal National Toxicology Program (NTP) completed a
study in 1998 that found an association between the topical application of
diethanolamine and certain DEA-related ingredients and cancer in laboratory
animals. For the DEA-related ingredients, the NTP study suggested that the
carcinogenic response was linked to possible residual levels of DEA. The NTP
study did not establish a link between DEA and the risk of cancer in humans.
But when a substance causes cancer in laboratory animals, it is a warning we
must take seriously.
In this case, we noted, there is an added concern. The presence of DEA in
cosmetics, including shampoos, can also lead to formation of nitrosamines,
which are powerful carcinogens. Many nitrosamines have been determined to
cause cancer in laboratory animals and have also been linked with human
cancer. These have also been shown to penetrate the skin. The FDA expressed
its concern about the contamination of cosmetics with nitrosamines in a
notice published in the Federal Register of April 10, 1979 (44 FR 21365). It
stated that cosmetics containing nitrosamines may be considered adulterated
and subject to enforcement action, though the agency has never demonstrated
a willingness to take meaningful enforcement action in this regard. Thus, in
DEA we have both a suspected carcinogen and a clear-cut carcinogen
As if this were not enough, shampoo manufacturers are also using many types
of other ingredients (known as ethoxylated alcohols) that are frequently
contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, and we have reported on these products, too.
When news came out about the cancer-causing potential of DEA, many shampoo
manufacturers looked at their labels and realized their products contained
DEA or cocamide DEA, both chemicals being cited in the NTP study as
cancer-causing. So what did they do? And why did they do it? Apparently more
for marketing reasons than consumer health, many manufacturers then decided
to eliminate cocamide DEA and instead use substitute ingredients like
lauramide DEA but, manufacturers soon learned, this chemical was also
found to be cancer-causing by the same federal program. Consumer outcry and
pressure led to its removal from some, but not all, shampoo products.
Nevertheless, instead of waking up to the fact that it might be smart to
simply keep DEA derivatives out of their products, many shampoo
manufacturers went on to a chemical not yet tested by the NTP but that still
contains DEA. If you look at many of the shampoo products today, you will
see they list cocamide MEA on their labels. Of cocamide MEA, the FDA says it
is one "of the most commonly used ingredients that may contain DEA." So
though not tested, it can nevertheless be considered a chemical of concern.
In addition, under certain circumstances, it can also cause nitrosamine
formation. Alberto VO5 and St. Ives shampoos contain or have contained
lauramide DEA. Aussie, Clairol, Dove, Finesse, Herbal Essences, and
Neutrogena are examples of shampoos that all list cocamide MEA as an
If We Were Winning the War on Cancer
None of this would matter much, if we were winning the war on cancer. But we
aren't. In 1999, it was noted that one in two American men and one in three
American women get cancer. In the 1950s, one in four Americans were
afflicted with this deadly disease. Despite the expenditure of $25 billion
since President Nixon declared the war on cancer in 1971, cancer rates have
soared. Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor emeritus of environmental and
occupational health at the University of Illinois, points out that from 1950
to 1998, the overall incidence of cancer rose about 60 percent, with much
higher increases for specific cancers. For non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and
multiple myeloma, the increase has been 200 percent. Breast cancers have
increased by 60 percent. Prostate cancer has increased 200 percent. In men
aged 28 to 35, there has been a 300 percent increase in testicular cancer
since 1950. And don't let anybody fool you into thinking that the cancer
rate increase is because the population is getting older -- these rates are
age-adjusted. The cancer rates of a group of 50-year old men in 1990, for
example, are compared to the cancer rates of a group of men in 1950.
No matter what shampoo manufacturers tell you, part of this rise is caused
by our overall bodily burden of cancerous chemicals, which has increased
greatly over the years. Placing small amounts of free DEA into shampoos
might not seem like a big deal in and of itself. But as consumers and
parents, we have to look at this small amount of DEA in the context of all
the other cumulative exposures from all other consumer products. Lots of
little drops of rain add up to a lot of rain. Lots of little drops of
chemical carcinogens add up to a lot of carcinogens. Thus, it makes sense to
reduce exposure to cancer-causing chemicals whenever possible. You can with
shampoos from Aubrey Organics.
Prescription for Healthy Living-Shampoos
The point we're making is that you can have beautiful, healthy hair without
chemical toxins. In this way you will also protect your health. We recommend
that Aubrey Organics' shampoos be the shampoo of choice in all homes today.
AvailabilityAubrey Organics' shampoos are widely available at natural
health centers nationwide. To find a location in your community, call Aubrey
Organics toll-free at (800) AUBREY-H (272-7394) or visit their website at
www.aubrey-organics.com and use their store locator service.
Commonly Used Ingredients That May Contain DEA
With the exception of color additives and a few prohibited ingredients,
cosmetics and personal care products are among the least-regulated consumer
products today. A cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a
cosmetic ingredient. The following are some of the most commonly used
ingredients that may contain DEA:
- Cocamide DEA
- Cocamide MEA
- DEA-Cetyl Phosphate
- DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate
- Lauramide DEA
- Linoleamide MEA
- Myristamide DEA
- Oleamide DEA
- Stearamide MEA
- TEA-Lauryl Sulfate
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