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Toxic Tuesday: Spotlight on Formaldehyde

29 Oct

You probably know this one. Think back to grade ten biology class. That poor frog floating in a jar filled with. . . that’s right, formaldehyde. It is often used to keep frogs and other slimy things in jars because it is an excellent preservative. It is also commonly found in nail polish and hair straightening products. Most recently the US federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the use of formaldehyde in these poplar hair products.


Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen; irritant to the skin and eyes, as well as lungs, kidney, stomach, and liver. It is also extremely toxic to the environment. . . I am sure our little amphibian friends can attest to that!

When formaldehyde-containing products are applied onto the skin and nails it can cause damage through absorption, however a more severe concern is the off-gassing that can occur particularly when the product is heated (e.g. hair straightening). According to the David Suzuki Foundation, most of the cancer research focuses on the risk caused by formaldehyde inhalation.

Warning: If you check product ingredient lists and do not see the presence of formaldehyde, you may also want to look for these other formaldehyde-releaseing preservatives:

Methylene glycol, Formalin, Methylene oxide, Paraform, Formic aldehyde, Methanal, Oxomethane, Oxymethylene, Timonacic acid, Thiazolidinecarboxylic acid

And for those of you who still love the look of pretty polished digits, but want to avoid being a science experiment, check out these formaldehyde-free nail polish alternatives.
– Seanna
How are you staying toxic free? I want to know! Share your comments below.

Toxic Tuesdays: Spotlight on BHA and BHT

24 Sep

Over the next little while, we will be posting “spotlights” on David Suzuki’s Dirty Dozen; 12 of the most prominent and harmful industrial chemicals found in commercial personal care products. In each post, examples will be provided of products that may contain these chemicals so that the next time you shop for that hot lipstick shade or ‘must- have’ anti-wrinkle cream you can be more aware of what you are buying.

With that said, let’s get started.

BHA & BHTButylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) are used as a cosmetic preservatives and are commonly found in lipsticks and moisturizers/ creams (oh, and don’t forget about sunscreens). These chemicals are extremely popular with cosmetic producers because they are very potent (synthetic) antioxidants — and as one can assume from the word, ‘anti-oxidant’, these preservatives prevent oxidation, which is the main cause of rancidity in fats/oils. 

Many researchers will argue for the use of BHA and BHT because they are believed to be harmless to humans in small doses, however vitamin E can be used as a perfectly (safe and natural) alternative to these chemicals.

BHA & BHT are known allergens, can cause hormone disruption, and are possible carcinogens when used long term (talk about a dirty mouth!). When BHT was tested long term on mice and rats 😦 , it caused kidney, liver, thyroid, and lung problems, as well as enhanced the chance of tumour growth.

Aside from our own precious bodies, BHA and BHT are toxic to the environent! These chemicals can have possible toxicity to aquatic life (ie. Nemo and Free Willy) and can bioaccumulate in the environment , which means organisms absorb a toxic substance at a rate greater than it is lost.

Lesson to be learned: Avoid BHT and BHA! Who needs them? There are so many fantastic lipsticks available (I can’t get enough of Ilia and Bite ) and moisturizers that are free of these toxic chemicals. . . and actually perform better!

Practice makes perfect: Try reading this label. Can you spot the culprit?


P.S While you are in the habit of checking labels, check the ingredients in your food! Live Science poses a great question: What food additive does the Food and Drug Administration deem “generally recognized as safe,” while the National Institutes of Health, says it’s “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen?”

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