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toxic label with a cosmetic

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles by FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m trying. I really am. All my adult life, I’ve been health-minded, spending massive amounts of time self-educating on the dos and don’ts of food choices. Now my zeal for wellness has hit a wall.

I try to follow the path of functional medicine, which involves taking proactive measures to prevent disorders rather than waiting until illness strikes. To this end, I began to look beyond nutrition and exercise to toxic exposure in my own home. I’ve become aware that through cleaning products, kitchen ware, cosmetics, scents and assorted body lotions, we allow the entrance of carcinogenic chemicals, allergens and toxins that defy pronunciation. In fact, I wonder if chemicals were intentionally given names the average person can’t pronounce or retain, so consumers can’t discuss them and thus protest their existence. How do you debate something you can’t pronounce? Fear not, there are organizations speaking for us, evaluating and judging everyday household items that are potentially harmful.


Last night I decided to delve into the subject of toxins, starting with a visit to the Web pages of the Environmental Working Group. Those of you already familiar with this organization are probably shaking your heads and wondering how long I’ve lived under a rock. For naive people like me, be forewarned. If you linger on the edge of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and have a tendency toward panic attacks, reading the EWG Web pages may push you over the edge. The organization rates over 80,000 food items, personal care products and household cleaning agents, according to its home page. There are free apps featured, one of which I downloaded to my iPhone: EWG’s Skin Deep. The app has a scanner, so you can check the health risk of specific cosmetics and skin care products before you buy them. What was I thinking?

Last night, I went on a scanning frenzy, checking cosmetics, lotions and facial cleansers in my bathroom, feeling like a ticking time bomb as I read the risks I was taking by using these products. This morning, I headed for the supermarket to replace the most egregious products, bypassing the dollar store of which I have been a loyalist. I was thinking that maybe the lower price equated to the longer chemical names in the ingredient list. In the cosmetics aisle of the supermarket, I could not find any of the low-hazard products I jotted down from the EWG site last night. Determined to make a selection from what was on the shelf, I reached for my phone to run the app scanner. No Internet connection! Grrr!

clip art with binoculars

I continued my expedition at the local CVS where my Internet connection was successful. Like a wild demon, I ran up and down the cosmetics aisle, picking items off the shelves and scanning them to guide my selection. Many were rejected by the scanner with a message that read, “Bar code not found.” I finally found a few products on the lower end of the hazard rating, but am embarrassed to say how much time I spent at that point. In all honesty, I got too carried away to keep track of the time.

So this brings me back to the wall I mentioned. By the time I got home, I was so fearful of the ubiquitous poisons occupying space in my cabinets, and exhausted from my efforts to try to rid myself of their presence, I succumbed to a long nap. Talking a walk probably would have been a healthier choice. But then again, who knows what’s in the fresh air? Is it really fresh?