Last updated on May 27th, 2022 at 04:16 pm
The Safemama Glossary Guide is designed to familiarize yourself with the topics discussed on this site and others.
It is by no means The Law. I urge you as a consumer, and a parent, to read through the links we’ve provided and educate yourself on these topics and make decisions for yourself and your family.
Possible carcinogen. 1,4-Dioxane is primarily used in solvent applications for manufacturing; however, it is also found in fumigants and automotive coolants. Additionally, the chemical is also used as a foaming agent and appears as an accidental byproduct of the ethoxylation process in cosmetics manufacturing. It may contaminate cosmetics and personal care products such as deodorants, shampoos, toothpaste, and mouthwashes. 1,4-dioxane is a known eye and respiratory tract irritant. It is suspected of causing damage to the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys. Dioxane is classified by the IARC as a Group 2B carcinogen: possibly carcinogenic to humans due to the fact that it is a known carcinogen in animals. (See also 1, 4-Dioxane in Organic Body Care Products)
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a hormone-mimicking chemical used in polycarbonate plastic resins, epoxy resins, and other products. It is most commonly used in baby bottles or any type of hard shatterproof plastic container. It is also found in the lining of canned goods, plastic wrap, and other household plastics. Bisphenol has estrogenic properties which, in animal tests have shown to cause a bevy of health problems such as an increase in prostate and breast cancer, uro-genital abnormalities in male babies, a decline in semen quality in men, early onset of puberty in girls, metabolic disorders including insulin-resistant (Type 2) diabetes and obesity and neurobehavioral problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Research is showing that when plastic containers, mostly those used to hold liquids and foods, are leeching Bisphenol into the foods and liquids they are holding. Heating food and liquids with these plastics are shown to increase the leaching of this contamination. Please see the Environmental Working Group’s EnvrioBlog for great beginner information. Here is a PDF from the Environmental Working Group about BPA.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a surfactant that gives shampoos and liquid soaps their cleansing and lathering properties. It is derived from coconut oil and dimethylaminopropylamine. According to a study done by the Environmental Working group in 2006, roughly 10% of all products containing Cocamidopropyl betaine contained harmful traces of carcinogenic nitrosamines. In addition, Cocamidopropyl betaine is a known skin, eye, and lung irritant. (Source: Chemical of the Day Blog) SafeMama thinks 10% isn’t that risky, so I can see why it’s used by product companies in place of things like SLS. However, my problem with it lies with the fact that companies lean on the “from coconut” part but leave out the fact that it’s been chemically processed. So it’s not really natural at all.
Used significantly in sunscreens. Associated with photoallergic reactions. This chemical absorbs through the skin in significant amounts. It contaminates the bodies of 97% of Americans according to Centers for Disease Control research. Oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor that can affect the nervous system, has been linked to cancer in some laboratory studies, and creates free radicals when exposed to the sun which is harmful.
Parabens are a group of chemicals widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Parabens are effective preservatives in many types of formulas. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bacteriocidal and fungicidal properties. They can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, cleansing gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives. Animal experiments have shown that parabens have weak estrogenic activity, therefore, sending up a flag with researchers. In one controversial study parabens were found in breast tumors. This study has fueled the belief that parabens in underarm deodorants or other cosmetics migrated into the breast tissue and contributed to the development of the tumors. The cosmetic industry holds steady that parabens are safe for general population use, but its hormone-mimicking properties have proven enough of a “what if” that consumers are opting now for paraben-free products and cosmetics.
PEG’s – (also known as Polyethylene Glycol)
Polyethylene glycol is a family of synthetic chemicals that function in cosmetic formulations as surfactants, cleansing agents, emulsifiers, skin conditioners, and humectants. PEGs are thought to increase cancer risks, including women’s risk of breast cancer. PEG compounds often contain small amounts of ethylene oxide. According to experimental results reported in the National Toxicology Program’s Eighth Annual Report on Carcinogens, ethylene oxide increases the incidences of uterine and breast cancers and of leukemia and brain cancer. PEG compounds are routinely contaminated with the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane. (see above) Source: Aubrey Organics Article.
PFOA – Or perfluorooctanoic.
PFOA is an acronym for perfluorooctanoic acid, a synthetic (man-made) chemical that does not occur naturally in the environment. PFOA is sometimes called “C8.” Companies use PFOA to make fluoropolymers, substances with special properties that have thousands of important manufacturing and industrial applications. PFOA can also be produced by the breakdown of some fluorinated telomers, substances that are used in surface treatment products to impart soil, stain, grease, and water resistance. PFOA is very persistent in the environment and has been found at very low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population. Studies indicate that PFOA can cause developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals. PFOA also appears to remain in the human body for a long time. All of these factors, taken together, prompted the Agency to investigate whether PFOA might pose a risk to human health and the environment at the levels currently being found, or at levels that might be reached in the future as PFOA continues to be released into the environment. (Source: EPA.gov)
Phenoxyethanol is used as an anti-bacterial in cosmetics as well as a stabilizer in perfume. The FDA has warned that phenoxyethanol can cause shut down of the central nervous system, vomiting, and contact dermatitis. It has also been shown to cause reproductive problems in mice. It’s popping up more and more because companies are trying to go paraben-free and using this as an alternative. Read a better explanation here Chemical of the Day blog by Stephanie of Bubble & Bee. The FDA issued a warning for a nipple cream stating phenoxyethanol could cause “respiratory distress or vomiting and diarrhea in infants”.
Phthalates (pronounced THA-lates)
A common class of chemicals used in many household products and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic to improve flexibility, and in cosmetics to bind fragrance to the product. Different types of phthalates include diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP), di-isononyl phthalate (DINP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP), and many others. Global phthalate production is estimated at 11 billion pounds per year. It is thought that of the adverse health effects of phthalates include: Early puberty in girls, Premature delivery, Impaired sperm quality and sperm damage in men, Genital defects and reduced testosterone production in boys, Genital defects and testicular cancer. (Source: Environmental California). Studies are now showing that phthalates are linked to obesity.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
PVC is one of the most widely used plastics, making up everything from shower curtains, water pipes, electrical wire, signs and toys. It is said that PVC can release numerous toxins during its lifetime and breakdown including mercury, dioxins, and phthalates. Not to mention, this and other plastic are filling up landfills at an alarming and bulky rate. Recently, some large chain stores including target and Wal-Mart have vowed to reduce the use of PVC in packaging and urge their suppliers to do the same.
Propylene glycol is a thickening/filling agent derived from glycerin and is in everything from store-bought hair dyes to many of your natural deodorants. Propylene glycol has been determined as “generally safe for use” by the FDA for both food and cosmetic use, yet it raises your risk of cancer, carries toxins that affect reproduction, is a known allergen and eye irritant, and can also be toxic to your immune system.
Sodium Laureth/Sodium Laurel Sulfate
Sodium Laureth is found in many beauty products. Mainly in shampoos and body washes, but also in toothpaste, mouthwash, and detergents to name just a few. SLS’s are a foaming agent and give shampoos and the like that thick “luxurious” foam that makes it seem like you’re getting cleaner when you’re really not. SLS’s are also a penetration enhancer and known skin irritant. They also run the risk of being contaminated with the possible human carcinogen 1,4 dioxane.
Triclosan is a chemical that is added to household items and body care products to restrict the growth of bacteria on a particular item. It can be found (and must legally be listed in body care items) in dishwashing liquid, toothpaste, toothbrushes, towels, mattresses, sponges, shower curtains, phones, kitchenware, food containers, shoes, flooring and carpet, cutting boards, clothing, and fabric (think work out gear), and toys. It has been linked to hormone disruption in animal studies and may possibly make bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Disclaimer: SafeMama™ doesn’t present this material as opinion or fact, just as a brief overview of what each item is, what the possible concerns are that are associated with them, and where to find definitions. There is a wealth of links Resources section of this website where you can find more information on most of these topics.