Chemicals in products mimic hormones

9:55 PM, Apr 19, 2008   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida--Consumer groups are warning, chemicals found in everyday products such as shampoos, lotion and cosmetics mimic estrogen.

California recently banned one type of controversial plasticizer found in baby products. Outside of the U.S., the European Union has banned endocrine-disrupting chemicals, but most companies refuse to remove the controversial chemicals.

So how can you cut down on your exposure?

Try to avoid products that have "danger" or "warning labels." Companies don't have to list all chemicals in their products and the Food and Drug Administration doesn't require companies to study whether products contain chemicals such as endocrine disruptors.

These chemicals — which include preservatives called parabens that are found in many shampoos and conditioners — act like hormones and are linked to reproductive and development problems in infants.

The Environmental Working Group recommends that consumers adopt a "better safe than sorry" approach. The group says consumers may want to watch out for certain products and ingredients:

•Fragrance, which often is included in ingredient lists as a catch-all term for dozens of chemicals, including phthalates.

•Sunscreens, which may contain estrogen-like chemicals. EWG recommends that consumers choose sunscreens made with zinc or titanium, which don't appear to pose this threat.

•Sodium laurel/laureth sulfate, a surfactant that EWG says is often contaminated with the carcinogenic substance 1,4 dioxane.

Some potentially risky chemicals aren't listed on labels, EWG says, because they're found in packaging. Manufacturers use a hormone-like substance called bisphenol A to line metal cans and add flexibility to plastics, such as baby bottles made with polycarbonate plastic, says Stanford University pediatrician Alan Greene, author of Raising Baby Green.

Although manufacturers say bisphenol A is safe and there are no human studies showing it poses a threat, tests in animals have linked the chemical to early puberty and cancer. Greene recommends avoiding plastics with certain recycling codes: #7 may include bisphenol A, and #3 may contain phthalates. Plastics with recycling codes 1, 2 and 5 are safer, he says.

Meanwhile, John Bailey, executive vice president for science at the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, says manufacturers have confidence in their products' safety.

He says phthalates used in cosmetics have been extensively tested and pose no health risks.

Experts say consumers don't need to break the bank to go green. People can clean their homes with products from the pantry: vinegar, baking soda, borax, Castile soap, cream of tartar, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, washing soda (carbonate of soda).

Windows: Mix 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in 1 quart of water. Spray on and use newspaper to dry.

Furniture: Mix vinegar and oil -- either olive or flaxseed -- in a one-to-one ratio, then polish with a soft cloth.

Brighten laundry: Add a half-cup of strained lemon juice during the rinse cycle.

Toilets: Pour 1 cup of borax into the toilet at night. In the morning, scrub and flush. For extra cleaning, add a half-cup vinegar to the borax.

Sterling silver: Line a plastic or glass bowl with aluminum foil. Sprinkle the foil with salt and baking soda, then fill the bowl with warm water and your silver. Tarnish will migrate to the aluminum foil. Rinse and dry the silver, then buff it with a soft cloth.

Hands/surfaces: Warm water and soap work just as well as anti-bacterial or anti-microbial products, which may contain ingredients that pollute the environment or cause antibiotic resistance.

USA Today

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