> Ingredients Detective
Making sense of product labels, from the food in our cupboards
to our soaps and shampoo, is like learning a new language. Though
it may feel overwhelming to understand the chemical names in the
ingredients, let alone navigate the veracity of the health claims
on the labels, it is very important: we must sort through our products
carefully these days and not add to our bodies' toxic loads.
It is our responsibility as consumers to be fully aware of the
effects of the products that are marketed to us, and to wisely select
products that will not harm us, our families or the environment.
(In fact, with regard to food, it is literally our legal responsibility
as of 2005, when Congress passed the "Cheeseburger Bill" - officially
called the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act. This
prevents people from suing big corporations for eating food that
makes them obese; corporations can sidestep responsibility for putting
unhealthy products into the marketplace, essentially claiming that
the consumer carries the responsibility of figuring out whether
a product is healthy or not.)
Unfortunately there are a lot of manufacturers out there who are
just as pleased to have customers that do not do their homework.
This allows them to enjoy profits despite using cheaper, inferior
ingredients even though they are harmful to us.
While many would expect the FDA to be helpful in keeping dangerous
additives and chemical ingredients off shelves, it is unfortunately
not always the case.
Some chemicals are on the FDA GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe
a.k.a., never been tested) list, or are on record with the FDA as
being safe in the quantities used for the individual products.
However, it is interesting to be aware of a few things: 1.) the
product safety test results submitted to the FDA are provided by
the makers of the product, which can be a conflict of interest;
2.) the FDA is not regulating the maximum safe level of exposure
to the chemicals that appear in multiple products that a person
might use (for example, the same irritating ingredient recognized
as safe for a bar of soap may also be used by a person multiple
times throughout the day in varying quantity in other products,
like shaving cream, shampoo, toothpaste, dish soap); 3) safety ratings
change as more tests are done -for example food coloring Red #1
was heavily used and considered safe until 1961 when it was discovered
to cause liver cancer. '
It is difficult for us to avoid toxins like environmental pollutin,
but we do have a choice when it comes to what we put in and on our
bodies: it is up to us to be knowledgeable and decide wisely the
products and food to which we will or won't expose our bodies.
Below are links to common food additives and ingredients
in personal care products to avoid, and some helpful information
on reading labels.
Common Food Additives
Personal Care Toxins
the Truth in Nutrition Labels