As I was researching current events and science news topics of interests for one of the one-on-one English as a Second Language (ESL) classes I teach, I went back to an old favorite of many of my adult students, The Story of Stuff Project, to select a short video that might be of interest to a particular student. Little did I know, something inside of me would finally click during the shortest video I’ve seen from them yet.
The Video explains how micro-beads, tiny pieces of plastic smaller than a grain of sand put into many cosmetic products, replace more natural exfoliates in products like face-wash to toothpaste. Though they haven’t proven to be any more effective than the natural options they substituted, they are cheaper to make and keep us coming back to buy products more frequently.
1 Million Times More Toxic Than the Water Around Them
The problem is that they are so small, water filtration companies can’t begin to filter them out. They end up in our waterways where fish eat them, and, according to research I did further, they are so small they can end up right back into our tap water. These micro-beads act as sponges that soak up the toxins around them, which can make them 1 million times more toxic than the water around them. To watch the 2 minute film, Click Here.
Really? That toxic? I quickly decided to drink water from our filtered tap instead of the normal one, making a mental note to check the effectiveness of that filter later. Meanwhile, I hurried to the bathroom to see if these were in the products I use.
I’m Swimming in Them
Let’s see, so my face-wash, my toothpaste, my shampoo, my body-wash…. definitely covered in micro-beads in my house. As I probed a little further, I learned dentists have a new task of removing micro-beads lodged into gums and eye-specialists have the lucky job of removing them from inside eye lids. Eww. What was I doing?
I realized I’ve never seriously questioned the products I use. If this is what is in the store, and if most people use it, and if the price is right, surely it’s good enough for me. But then, I know these products aren’t regulated here.
I Should Know Better
At one point, in 2011, before getting pregnant with my 1st child shortly after, seven of my students at once were expecting. Either my student was a pregnant or their wife was. Since my one-on-one ESL classes are tailored to help students build the language and communication skills they need to talk about areas of interest to them, I was doing a lot of research and having a lot of conversations about everything baby and child-raising.
Having students from all over the world has given me the incredible blessing of learning about different cultural perspectives on everything from cooking to sales techniques to eugenics to management styles. Many of the things I’ve learned have made me a better person, and a handful have shocked me deeply on a moral and/or personal level.
One such thing I learned was about the reality that many of our products, including many of the popular baby products we use in America, have formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals in them. My students were concerned about what to do to protect the littlest member of their family that would soon be bathing in these products. They were appalled that their favorite shampoos, deodorants, and makeup were regulated in their countries to protect users but unregulated here.
Same Company, Good Formulas Elsewhere, Toxic Ones Here
Are you kidding me? I didn’t believe it at first, but their J & J baby shampoo bought for their nephew in Germany was perfectly fine, while our shampoo by the same company is chock full of nastiness. Just as Coke has different formulas to fit the taste of each country in which they sell their products, it seems cosmetic companies have different formulas as well.
So Many Linked Side-Effects
I had known all this before watching the 2-minute film. The truth is, as I was checking my products for micro-beads, I was seeing all kinds of other ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce that are known to be hormone disruptors, cancer causers, liver lesion makers, fertility hinderers, and more. Read more:
- 9 Toxins to Avoid in Personal Care Products
- Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: Chemicals of Concern
- Webmed: What’s in your Personal Care Products
It’s Not Really that Hard to Choose Wisely
From all the better options out there for reasonable (sometimes even cheaper) prices, it really isn’t that hard to make a good choice. I’d also recently used a quick and easy recipe to make my own lotion from a handful of products, and knew it not only worked great, but it was free of all the nasty chemicals I was used to slathering on and letting my body absorb. My surgeon from this summer had told me to rub lotion with shea butter and vitamin E on my enormous scar, and, having searched the store, it was just way easier and cheaper for me to make it myself. And I love the results.
With great products out there already, and with tons of recipes to make them yourself cheaper, I’ve been walking down a cleaner road of different products. I’ve been experimenting with healthier pre-made products as well as DIY simple, cheap recipes like this one. I had no way of knowing that a 2-minute video for work could kick me in my pants and get me going on this journey. Yet, I’m glad it did. I feel cleaner, and I know my kids are.
Want to Know More?
Search for Toxic/Non-Toxic Personal Care Products:
- EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database
- California’s Safe Cosmetics Program Product Database
- Guide to Less Toxic Products
- Think Dirty; Shop Clean App
Toxins in Kids Products
- WebMed: Children’s personal care products
- EWG: Toxic Chemicals found in kids bath products
- Time: Johnson and Johnson Toxic Ingredients
- Johnson and Johnson may be poisoning your child
DIY Personal Care Items