Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate & Sodium Laureth Sulphate

I know I've already written about labels and the importance of reading them, but that was food labels. Now I want to ask you to read your cosmetic, toothpaste, dishwashing liquid, body wash, shaving foam, facial cleansers and finally shampoo labels, to name a few. Basically anything that you use that foams and bubbles. Why? To see how many of your products contain either sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulphate, also known as Sodium lauryl ether sulphate (SLES).

SLS and SLES are chemical surfactants that are very effective foaming agents. They also have a degenerative effect on the cell membrane during absorption, metabolism and excretion, studies have shown, according to the American College of Toxicology. In lab tests on rabbits, a 10% SLS solution caused corneal damage to rabbits’ eyes if not irrigated or if irrigation was delayed. The use of SLS and SLES in children's products is particularly worrying, as application, even via the skin leads to measured concentrations within the eyes of children. The American college of Toxicology has also stated that "Tests show permanent eye damage in young animals from skin contact in non-eye areas".

In other words, SLS is absorbed through the skin, it does not need to come into direct contact with the eyes for it to cause potentially permanent eye damage. And just like bisphenol a (BPA) both SLS and SLES are endocrine disruptors, which mimic the hormone oestrogen. The potential health implications of this could lead to a variety of issues from PMS to increased risk of cancer in women to reduced fertility rates in men, which are already on the decline due to the chemical phthalate being used in so many commercial products already. (See The disappearing Male link).

So why is it being used in so many commercially, readily and widely available products? Simply answered, it's cheap! And just because a product may have "Natural" in it's name or on the label somewhere doesn't mean it is natural. It may still contain SLS or SLES or a multitude of other chemicals or additives. The important thing to do is to read your labels and do your homework, research the products you are already using and see what they contain.

Changing all your products from unnatural to natural and chemical free is a big and potentially expensive process, so what do I recommend? Baby steps, change one item a week, start with your toothpaste. especially your children's. Children's toothpaste is full of a myriad of chemicals, it may be lower in sugar but it's not lower in chemicals! Look for products that are sulphate free, ask questions at your local health food store and look online.

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