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Harmful chemicals in personal care products and legally not on the label

Most harmful chemicals in personal care products can be identified by reading the label on the pack. But what we don’t realise is that these products may also contain a range of harmful chemicals that are not listed.

These are typically compounds that occur in the product as a result of a reaction between two or more chemicals in the manufacturing process. Often referred to as an ‘impurity’, a discerning consumer might be better placed to call them carcinogenic, contaminating and toxic.

One example of this is 1,4-dioxane. You won’t find it listed on the label but it is often found as a contaminant in products that also contain ingredients or partial ingredient names including PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, -eth- (such as sodium laureth sulfate), oxynol, ceteareth or oleth.

1,4-Dioxane is banned in several countries but the chances of it being in a typical personal care item you’ve used today is significant. Exposure to 1,4-dioxane is even more of a concern when we consider how many times per day an adult or child might be exposed to it: shampoo, conditioner, bath wash and so on. Look for its known cohorts (as above) on labels and avoid it whenever you can.

More information on 1,4-Dioxane

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Lindy Schneider is a writer and researcher with a keen interest in health, wellbeing and natural childcare. She is an advocator of a chemical-free lifestyle in the best interests of her family, the community and a sustainable world. She lives in the Yarra Valley with her partner and two young children.

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