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Toxic Shampoos

from Healthy Living




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 health.

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 precursor.

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.

Manufacturing Tricks

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 ingredient.

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.

Availability—Aubrey 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
  • Triethanolamine

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