WHETHER shampoo, body lotion, facial wash, lipstick or antiperspirants, we all use personal care products on a daily basis.
What a lot of us do not realise, however, is the presence of potentially harmful chemicals in these products.
Researchers tested 49 Canadian women’s cosmetics and found that all contained at least one of seven heavy metals, including lead, arsenic, cadmium and beryllium.
Some of these have bad reputations, but are not considered harmful, while others are extremely poisonous.
Arsenic is used predominantly for pigments in ceramics, glass, medicines and insecticides, but may also be used in some personal care products.
Arsenic trioxide is carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and there may be no safe level of exposure to carcinogens.
Arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, nasal passages, liver and prostate, and is also known as a reproductive hazard.
Repeated skin exposure to arsenic results in patchy skin and a loss of pigment.
Beryllium is highly poisonous and causes irritation of, and damage to, respiratory organs.
Poisoning is caused by inhalation of beryllium dust or through skin contact.
Metal splinters (dust) that get into skin cause ulcers, leading to the most serious of known skin diseases.
Cadmium is naturally occuring and cadmium sulfide-based pigments were used from 1850 for their brilliant reds, oranges and yellows.
A by-product of zinc production and highly toxic, cadmium is retained in the body once absorbed and is toxic to the kidneys.
It can also cause bone de-mineralisation.
Lead is widely used in cosmetics, including lipstick, whitening toothpaste, eyeliner and nail polish.
While some metals, such as iron, play important roles in our bodies, lead is not one of them.
Cancerous breast biopsies show higher accumulations of metals, including lead and cadmium, than non-cancerous biopsies.
Lead is a proven neurotoxin linked to learning, behavioural and language problems.
It is also linked to reduced fertility in men and women, and has been eliminated from petrol and paint.
Aluminium Chlorohydrate is found in most antiperspirants, while aluminium salt (Aluminium Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY) is the only active ingredient approved by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) for use in antiperspirants.
Despite some concern, there is no evidence linking aluminium to Alzheimers, nor between antiperspirants and breast cancer.
However, people suffering from kidney disease are advised to consult their doctors before using antiperspirants (especially those on an aluminium-restricted diet).
While cosmetics date back to early civilisation, ingredients have changed dramatically and consumers are urged to check product labels.
After all, that facial wash you use every day may contain a synthetic chemical used to stabilise pesticides, grease industrial gears or clean industrial equipment.