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Avoiding toxicity in any form is one of the main determinants of good health and an extension of the guiding light that is the Hippocratic Oath: First do no harm. Since October of 2002, state law requires informed consent materials at your dentist’s office that describesome of the dangers of mercury. As of 2006, California and Maine are the only states to mandate this information. The most recent version of the California fact sheet can be found at: http://www.dbc.ca.gov/pdf/dmfs2004.pdf.

Currently there is research showing that in communities with fluoridated water at 1 ppm (parts per million) for forty years or so, they found a 20-40% increase in hip fractures, 20% increase in bone cancer and a 15% increase in renal failure – which is among the top 15 causes of death in this country. The popular fluoride toothpastes you see at the store contain higher levels and are a cause of poisoning among children, according to the Center for Disease Control, Marketing and propaganda have kept everyone in the dark, including your dentist, even though there is a poison warning on the toothpaste label.

Marketing, propaganda and the publics belief that the FDA always looks out for their interest has brought about another unexpected source of toxicity that undermines healthy living. Since 1938 when the FDA de-regulated the cosmetics industry, thousands of synthetic chemicals have been added to the full spectrum of personal care products. Items like soap, shampoo, bubble bath and baby wipes, as well as toothpaste, all contain toxic ingredients. According to a documentary made by Bill Moyers in 2000, there is not a single child born today who is free of synthetic chemicals in their blood.

The documentary reports that more than a decade ago the cosmetics industry guaranteed the public that adequate testing would be done to insure the safety of ingredients. This assurance turned out to be a stalling tactic that has worked to our detriment. Though the doses are minute, most people use anywhere from five to ten such products daily. Since adequate testing has not been done, the cumulative and synergistic effects of all these minute amounts of toxins has never been established.

Today limiting the damage caused by toxicity is the hidden determinant to good health. I see limiting toxicity as an even bigger problem than getting proper nutrition. Your body has the wisdom to convert whatever you feed it into nutrients it can use, but over time the response to relentless, cumulative toxicity just wears the body down. Since no one is paying attention – it’s become easier to be poisoned and more and more difficult to maintain health.

Several years ago Senator Edward Kennedy introduced a bill about changing labeling laws on personal care products, but still most people are in the dark about this problem, even those who are health conscious and aware. The bottom line is that in order for the cosmetics industry to sell you a cost effective product, it must be produced cheaply, look and smell appealing and have a shelf life. Artificial colors and scents that affect the immune system make it look good and smell good. Plastic and preservatives that are hormone disruptors enhance shelf life. Solvents keep the plastic fluid.

One of my colleagues, naturopathic physician Catherine Saltzman of Encinitas, has been testing for solvent poisoning in her practice and has found that 65% of her patients tested positive. Bill Moyers’ documentary says, “We just don’t know what these products are doing to us.” Products full of toxins penetrate our bodies transdermally on a regular basis, eroding the skin’s ability to function properly as an organ of detoxification. As a holistic dentist and health practitioner I want to go on record as saying that we do know…we know that the many toxins surrounding us are responsible for breaking down our immune systems, leading the way to chronic ill health and disease.

The following are some of the key toxins to be found in personal care and household products. Please be advised that some of the more expensive products with extensive marketing saying “pure” or “natural” still contain solvents and preservatives along with their beneficial ingredients.  Most of the information on the following ingredients has been taken from the Material and Safety Data Sheets of Oxford University, U.K.

Aluminum: On the list of likely and known carcinogens in the MSDS. A commonly found ingredient in anti-perspirants, aluminum produces this effect by blocking the pores to prevent sweating. While deodorants are useful, it is not advisable to prevent perspiration altogether since this is one of the ways the skin detoxifies.

DEA, Diethanolamine MEA Monoethanolamine TEA Triethanolamine: According to the MSDS, a severe skin, eye and respiratory irritant, harmful if swallowed or inhaled. A facts sheet on cosmetics published by the FDA in 1999 released information on a study that showed DEA to be carcinogenic.

DMDM (Dimethylol Dimethol Hydrantoin) and Imidazolidinyl Urea: Two ingredients often used as preservatives in skin care products that break down into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is known to be highly toxic by inhalation, ingestion and through the skin, where it is readily absorbed. It may cause genetic damage and is a known carcinogen.

Glycerine: The MSDS advises that contact be minimized with this substance, which is used as an emulsifier in food and in anti-freeze as well as in skin care products. It is known to cause dehydration at humidity below 65 per cent. It may therefore dehydrate the skin when used in lotions and be an irritant to the gums when used in products for whitening teeth.

Lye or Sodium /Potassium Hydroxide: Lye, also known as potassium or sodium hydroxide, can be purchased in the hardware store for cleaning drains. It is known to be highly caustic and can cause permanent eye damage. Bar soaps are sometimes made of lye combined with animal fats, and it is also found in toothpaste. Toothpastes that claim to get teeth whiter are sometimes using lye as a bleaching agent. No warnings are posted on toothpaste tubes.

Methylparaben and Propylparaben: These toxic and allergenic synthetic preservatives are found in many cosmetics, including those in the health food store. Research at a university in the UK found that parabens are estrogenic, are hormone disruptors and& may interfere with fetus development.

Mineral Oil: A petroleum derivative commonly found in skin care products mineral oil, according to the MSDS, “May be harmful by inhalation, ingestion and through skin absorption.” By clogging the pores mineral oil may create skin toxicity leading to acne. It is also on the list of known and suspected carcinogens.

Propylene Glycol: Classified as a hazardous substance by the United Nations, this major skin irritant is commonly found in industrial solvents along with numerous personal care products from makeup and lotions to shampoos and conditioners.

Saccharine: An ingredient sometimes found in toothpastes and mouthwashes that is a known carcinogen, according to the MSDS.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Found in even so-called “natural” toothpaste as a detergent and surfactant, SLS can cause the gums to separate from the teeth because it denatures protein. It is found in floor cleaners, car wash soaps and used to de-grease engines. According to the American College of Toxicology, animals exposed to SLS experienced eye damage, severe skin irritation, corrosion and death. Other research indicates that SLS may be damaging to the immune system.

Talc: According to the MSDS, talc is generally considered safe, however talc with “asbestiform particles” is on the list of suspected and known carcinogens. This substance is widely used for intimate personal care of infants and common sense says that it should definitely be avoided.

Triclosan: This ingredient has gained popularity as an anti-bacterial agent in soaps and is currently being introduced into toothpastes. It is registered with the EPA as a pesticide and is similar in structure to PCB’s and Agent Orange. Manufacturing may produce dioxin, a potent hormone disruptor and carcinogen. Triclosan is a chlorophenol, a class of chemicals that can kill friendly bacteria and cause skin irritation. It is also suspected of causing cancer in humans. Scientists warn that Triclosan may be forcing the emergence of “superbugs” that it cannot kill. It’s the active ingredient in the popular hand wash Softsoap.

Other additives that have raised questions are: Isopropyl Alcohols, Plastic Polymers, Coal Tar Dyes, Artificial Colors and Fragrances.

The information can seem overwhelming, but there are some simple guidelines you can follow: 1) Read your labels. Learn the main toxins to avoid. 2) Take anti-oxidants for protections 3) Have enough essential fatty acids to detoxify and 4) Eat sufficient protein to rebuild tissue.