Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How do you know your ingredients are safe?

You put what in my ice cream?

When deciding what ingredients to use, always consider the source of your information. You can see from the post on "all natural", that often times these things are opinion, not fact, based. I like to consider the studies I'm reading before making up my mind on safety.

An aside, I believe we should be free to make up our minds to include any ingredient we want in our products and we don't need to justify ourselves. We make choices based on lifestyle, belief systems, and loveliness, and they're all valid choices. It's only when we start making false claims about ingredients that I get annoyed...

I received a comment asking about the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and the EWG. I admit I'm not a fan of this site. Its goal seems to be to cause fear and concern in those who read it. It seems to be a source of great misinformation, and I don't rely upon it for data.

Consider their rating of olive oil as "1", meaning low hazard. The database notes "broad systemic effects" on organ system toxicity at moderate doses, and for cancer "one or more in vitro tests [were] inconclusive, but [showed] potentially positive mutation results".

Or look at the rating of stearic acid as "2 to 3", meaning low to moderate hazard. The first two studies are from 1961: Have they been replicated? It's bad because it causes brain and nervous system effects at low doses in animals, causes respiratory effects in low doses, causes endocrine disruption at high doses, and positive mutation results for cancer.

And don't get me started on jojoba oil!

There are no definition for these phrases. What is a low or moderate dose? What is a "respiratory effect"? How much irritation qualifies as "skin irritation"? What is a "positive mutation result" for cancer? Which animals were used in the tests? (Guinea pigs are 5 000 times more sensitive to some ingredients than a human would be...) And I find it funny that every single ingredient I chose to look up - synthetic and natural - had exactly the same problems.

(As a note...water is just fine for you. I guess they didn't consider the respiratory effects of inhaling large doses, eh? Or the skin responses to soaking for extended periods of time in moderate to high quantities.)

Most of their sources from RTECS, the Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (for more information, click to read the wiki page), which is compiled "from the open scientific literature without reference to the validity or usefulness of the studies reported." So you could publish a study with results that are completely out there, and you'd get quoted in this database.

If you want some good scientific information, visit Ben Goldacre's Bad Science or The Beauty Brains (for specific information on cosmetic products and ingredients).

I posted the picture above because I'm lactose intolerant and diabetic. For me, ice cream would be considered 10 - a massive, scary, alarming safety hazard - causing gastric and intestinal distress and increased blood sugar, which can lead to blindness, neuropathy, and cardiac damage. For Raymond, it's a cool chocolate-y treat on a summer's day.

1 comment:

Farha said...

I've been coming to the same conclusions about the Cosmetics Database. I have been looking at it but find there are huge gaps in the information and the ratings don't always make sense. Thanks for the links to the other sites. I've been looking for sources of more relaible information.