Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Curious about the ingredients in cleaning products?

Have you ever wondered what is really in all the cleaning products you use at home? The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) and the Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association (CCSPA) have made it easy for you by creating an Ingredient Communication Initiative to provide consumers with information about the ingredients in various cleaning products.

The SDA Ingredient Central page provides a list of companies and their websites where you can find information on the ingredients used in their products. However, while some of the web links take you directly to the company's ingredient information page, most of them just link to the company website, and you have to do your own exploring to find your way to the ingredients page.

Please, use sunscreen to get cancer...

It seems like chemical sunscreens are a toxic brew of reproductive toxins and cancer causing chemicals...They say, "put on sunscreen to protect against skin cancer," but some new studies are suggesting that perhaps sunscreens are causing cancer.

Looking through all the sunscreen choices at the store, I've noticed that currently, most formulations contain one or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone and avobenzone (bad because they generate free radicals when exposed to UV radiation); cinnamates (often listed as "cinoxate," as if the abbreviation will make it seem less scary); salicylates (often listed as "homosalate" or "octisalate"); titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (physical barrier, but possibly bad because they're often nano-sized). Apparently, one of the non-active ingredients that is commonly added to sunscreens is an anti-oxidant called retinyl palmitate, a derivative of vitamin A, which presumably is supposed to help prevent skin damage from the sun. However, this compound may also be "photocarcinogenic," as it breaks down upon exposure to UV radiation to form compounds that have been shown to accelerate cancer in lab animals. There's no evidence as to what it does in humans, but it might be a good idea to be cautious.

I still haven't found a sunscreen that I like. I don't spend that much time in the sun anyway, but if I know I'll be in the sun long enough to get sunburned, then sure, I'll apply some sunscreen. Otherwise, I'll take my chances and get some vitamin D from a little sun exposure. When needed, I use California Baby's no fragrance sunscreen on my toddler. It's the best I can find so far, but I'm still a little concerned about the whole nanoparticle issue with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide formulations.

The horror! Methyl iodide as an approved pesticide??

I recall hearing a couple of years ago that California was considering using methyl iodide as a replacement for methyl bromide, which has been used extensively as a pesticide for crops, such as strawberries, but has also been wreaking havoc on the ozone layer. So, methyl bromide is being phased out, but what to replace it with? Apparently, Arysta LifeScience has been pushing the use of methyl iodide as a soil fumigant, which should work similarly but not affect the ozone layer. In 2007, the EPA actually approved its use, despite the warnings from many chemists who said they were "astonished" that the EPA was considering "broadcast releases of one of the more toxic chemicals used in manufacturing into the environment."

I personally used methyl iodide in grad school, but I always took great precautions -- gloves, fumehood, syringes to transfer. This is not something you want to get on yourself. It is routinely used to methylate DNA. Can you say, "cancer"? Methyl iodide is 6 times more toxic than methyl bromide. It's still very volatile, so there is a serious inhalation risk. If used on crops, it will contaminate the air and the water, and most likely poison farm workers and people living in the vicinity (especially downwind).

A report from the California Scientific Review Committee in 2009 concluded that there was no good way to use methyl iodide safely and that its use would have a significant adverse impact on public health. Yet, on April 30, 2010, California actually proposed using methyl iodide as a pesticide for use in agriculture. What are these people thinking?? If nothing is done, methyl iodide will become legal for California farmers to use after June 29.

Interesting facts: 47 States have licensed the use of methyl iodide, and 11 states have used it at least once. It has been used mostly on strawberries and sometimes on tomatoes and peppers.