We all know that organic is best, but without an understanding of why certain ingredients are best avoided, committing to an organic lifestyle can seem like a luxury rather than a necessity. To help you gain a clearer idea of the risks you’re avoiding by shopping organic, we’ve put together a list of some of the most common nasties which work their way into everything from our soap to our shampoo, our candles to our cleaning spray.
Phthalates (particularly diethyl phthalate)
Labelled by The Guardian as “chemical enemy number one” , phthalates are a chemical binding agent used in everything from cleaning products to cosmetics. Research by the US Center for Disease Control and the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (Chap) have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues . Phthalates have also been found to act as endocrine disruptors: mimicking hormonal function and resulting in issues such as infertility, pregnancy loss and altered gene expression . While this research has failed to result in government regulations against the use of phthalates, it’s wise to avoid them where possible, and since they’re so widespread, this involves checking ingredient lists and tapping out if you see these chemicals present. While phthalates are found in everything from packaging to personal care products, they’re most commonly found in artificially fragranced products. One of the most commonly used phthalates found in synthetic fragrances is diethyl phthalate (DEP), which poses immediate health risks when directly applied to skin and absorbed into the bloodstream. Similarly, non-organic candles and room sprays are often DEP-heavy, adding this troublesome toxin to your indoor air.
“Free of parabens” is a line you’ll see listed often, but what does that mean to you? As another endocrine disruptor (mimicking oestrogen to cause hormonal imbalance and a number of associated health issues ), parabens have been found to be a carcinogenic ingredient, with research pointing to a strong link between paraben exposure and breast cancer . If that’s not enough to inspire you to limit your use of parabens (which are found in many cosmetic products, from shampoo to shaving foam) then the impact they have on wildlife should be. The build up of parabens in the sewerage system makes its way into our oceans, and has been found to cause harm to marine mammals .
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen us all washing our hands far more frequently, but we sometimes forget the risks we might be taking by lathering our hands in chemicals. Triclosan is an antifungal and antibacterial chemical found in many sanitising products, and while it’s effective at killing germs, it’s also been linked to skin irritation and weakened immune function . Some countries, including the United States, have banned the use of triclosan due to its toxic effects, but the ingredient is still rife in Australian cosmetics and cleaning products . Again, it’s not just humans who are at risk: triclosan has been found to cause developmental abnormalities to various aquatic organisms such as fish and algae (which are an essential part of aquatic ecosystems) .
Known for its particularly toxic smell, ammonia is a common ingredient in many surface cleaners, toilet cleaners and multi-surface cleaners. At a high concentration, ammonia is highly corrosive and can cause burning, blindness and extreme lung damage . At lower concentrations, ammonia can cause skin irritation and difficulty breathing, so while wearing a mask while you’re cleaning is an option, you’re safer avoiding the ingredient all together: for the safety of you and the planet.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Common in many cosmetic products such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash and toothpaste, sodium laureth sulfate is another ingredient best avoided. As well as being regarded as a possible carcinogen (although no solid evidence has proven this claim), this chemical foaming agent has been found to impact our skin’s protective function and cause irritation to skin, eyes and respiratory tracts .
While it's impossible to avoid these ingredients entirely without retreating to a woodland cabin, we can limit our exposure to them by choosing our cleaning and personal products with care.
Aelin Organics manufactures Australian made and owned products with the highest quality organic ingredients. We are proudly certified organic, meaning each product and ingredient goes through a stringent approval process to ensure it is safe and meets the strict standards of the NASAA Certified Organic body. By choosing to switch to certified organic household products you can be sure you are doing something that benefits not only your own health, but the health of the environment.