Good Chemistry: Green Tips for Better Health, from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

Posts Tagged ‘formaldehyde’

Johnson & Johnson to Stop Using Harmful Chemical – Victory or Not?

As a mom (who was once a kid), I’m kind of rejoicing; as an American woman, I’m kind of ticked off.

Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo. Now they're pledging to eliminate it (at least some of the time) from their products

Johnson & Johnson has promised to stop using harmful – possibly carcinogenic – ingredients in all their lines by 2015. Yay! That means that they’ve been paying attention to the threats from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and their allies. It means that J&J is waking up to the fact that American women really don’t want to slather themselves in toxic chemicals, nor do we want those chemicals anywhere near our kids.  It almost feels like a victory.

But is it?

 Johnson & Johnson has been carcinogen-free in countries all over the world for years. And according to their press release, they will still use chemicals that release formaldehyde "when no safe alternative will work .” But there must already be safer alternatives to these chemicals  if Johnson & Johnson products are on the shelves in places with stricter rules like the Europen Union and Japan.  

Their promises seem reassuring, though and this news make me want to support them. They are one of the few big companies actually changing policy and formulas because of consumer demand. A lot of that has to do with their huge line of baby products (moms are a very vocal group) and the problems they’ve had with public image in the wake of recalls on their pharmaceuticals – but it’s a step in the right direction that should be applauded.

What we really need to do is shake up the other cosmetic companies! Just because we aren’t the diaper and crayon set doesn’t mean we deserve toxic, carcinogenic, or hormone disrupting chemicals in our products: personal or beauty. L’Oreal (Maybelline, Garnier, Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, Softsheen-Carson), Procter & Gamble (CoverGirl, Pantene, Secret, Old Spice), Estee Lauder (Clinique, MAC, Prescriptives), Avon, and Unilever (Dove, Ponds, St. Ives, Axe) all need to be held to higher standards than the ones the FDA holds them to.  

I urge you to check out Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ Get Involved page. Sign a petition, send an email, make your own lip gloss – Do something healthy and pretty!

Posted by on August 23rd, 2012 No Comments

Green Halloween

My friends and I take Halloween very seriously. Each year we have a “group theme,” and work on our costumes for weeks leading up to the big day. 

Although we consider ourselves Halloween experts, we were in the dark about how horrifically toxic this holiday can be. Lead in children’s face paints, phthalates in masks, and costumes made from PVC are just a few of the ghastly truths I unveiled in my research. Luckily, thanks to several informative blogs and websites, there are ways to have a Green Halloween.

Some tips:

  1. Avoid face paint. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetic’s Report Pretty Scary revealed children’s face paints contain lead, nickel, cobalt and/or chromium, among other unidentified ingredients like “fragrance.” If you need to paint your face, check out some of these home-made face paint recipes.
  2. Ditch the Colored Hair Sprays. They contain toxic chemicals and shouldn’t be sprayed around eyes, mouth, nose, and definitely shouldn’t be inhaled! As that is pretty much impossible to avoid, opt for a wig instead.
  3. Buy PVC-Free Masks & Costumes. Community Mama reports many Halloween masks and costumes are made from PVC (the poison plastic) which can leach harmful gender-bending phthalates. If you can’t avoid them, look for ones that are marked “PVC-Free,” or make your own from what you have at home.
  4. Avoid Phthalates in Masks & Teeth. The reason those false teeth and masks are so flexible is because they’re made with endocrine-disrupting phthalates. Try making your own mask instead, or painting your face with homemade face paint.
  5. Steer Clear of Traditional Nail Polish. Most contain formaldehyde, tolulene, and acetone. Get Green Be Well recommends Hopscotch Kids or Piggy Paint as a safer alternative.
  6. Decorate Naturally. Opt for pumpkins, gourds, and cornstalks, instead of plastic decorations. You won’t be harming your guests, and it will look a lot less cheesy.
  7. Light Soy Candles.  Planet Green reports traditional candles are made from petroleum-based paraffin, carcinogens, neurotoxins, and reproductive toxins. Soy candles are safer, renewable, and biodegradable.
  8. Hand out organic, or natural treats. Organic chocolate is pesticide-free and lead-free.  It’s also full of powerful antioxidants. 

Posted by on October 14th, 2010 No Comments

Cosmetics: Beauty and Health are More Than Skin Deep

unsafe cosmeticsSkin is the largest organ of the human body, which is why we should be more thoughtful when we slather, coat, and camouflage it.  People have been using cosmetics for thousands of years, yet the cosmetic industry is one of the least regulated industries in the United States.  Lack of regulation could be why a large number of cosmetic products contain lead, formaldehyde, parabens, and phthalates.  Since our bloodstream absorbs up to 60% of the products we apply to our skin, we should all be aware of what we’re putting into our bodies.

Currently, cosmetics and personal care products are not required to undergo testing in the United States, and their effects on human health are not monitored. An independent study in 2007 by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics revealed that 61% of the 33 lipsticks they tested contained lead—up to 0.65 parts per million.  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics challenged the FDA to conduct its own test. Two year’s later the results were in, revealing lead in 100% of the lipsticks tested by the FDA. The CDC states that there is no safe level of lead exposure, and yet, because of the lack of regulation, the average lipstick wearer will ingest 6 to 10 pounds of lipstick over the course of her lifetime, through regular application and wear.

Nail polish isn’t any better than lipstick. For at least a decade we’ve known that nail polish contains phthalates, which are linked to problems with male reproductive health.  Both diethylhexyl and dibutyl, phthalates commonly found in U.S. cosmetics, have been banned in Europe due to safety concerns but are perfectly legal here.  Nail polish also contains other harmful chemicals including toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate, chemicals all linked to cancer and birth defects.

What can be done to keep these toxic ingredients out of our personal care products? Legislation has been introduced in some states to ensure safe cosmetic legislation, but something needs to be passed at the federal level.  Until that happens, it is essential for us consumers to be conscious of the ingredients and potential health effects in our cosmetics.  Because researching safe cosmetics can be overwhelming we’ve provided a couple of websites to help navigate your way:

To learn more about the campaign for safe cosmetics go to:
To search for a product, ingredient, or company go to:
To see the top 10 cosmetic toxins to avoid go to:

Posted by on June 1st, 2010 1 Comment

Pedicure Season

As a working mom, I have few indulgences...aside from a couple of pedicures during the summer months, that is.  As someone who is always catering to others' needs, having my feet rubbed and generally being treated like a queen for 1/2 hour is hard to resist.  Not to mention the allure of red toe nails.

Cute, but is it worth putting other women at risk?

Cute, but is it worth putting other women at risk?

This bubble has burst.  Around the PPNNE office, I had been hearing water cooler conversations about nail workers (most of whom are in their childbearing years) and their increased exposure to formaldehyde and other toxins.  I conveniently buried my head in the sand, as pedicure season was upon me.

When I finally got in the chair for my first pedi of the season, ready to let pampering rain upon me,  I couldn't enjoy it.  I started to feel like my eyeballs were throbbing and I couldn't wait to breathe fresh air.  This sent me to internet, where I learned astonishing things.

Most nail workers have a common profile. They tend to earn less than $17,000 a year and are usually recent immigrants without health insurance. Throughout their work day, commonly in poorly ventilated spaces, they are continuously exposed to solvents, glues, and countless chemicals linked to cancers, respiratory and skin problems, and reproductive harm. (Ingredients in cosmetics are not regulated by the FDA!!!) According to the California Breast Cancer Research Program, breast cancer is the number one cancer in Vietnamese women, who make up the majority of the nail worker force.

Some cities and non-profit organizations have begun to address this issue, and there is a pdf named "Phasing Out the Toxic Trio" available.

I have a few weeks before I am due for my next pedicure, and I intend to research what the less toxic and cruel alternatives are.  Should you know of any, kindly post a comment.

Posted by on June 3rd, 2009 1 Comment