Toxic Talk and Labels

U.K. Stores Ban Products Containing Parabens and Sulfates

+ CV Skinlabs Team

Here in the U.S., we’re talking about the potential dangers of popular ingredients like parabens and sulfates in our personal care products. But in the U.K., stores are actually banning brands of products that contain these ingredients.

Holland & Barrett, the U.K.’s largest nationwide chain of health food shops (with just under 550 stores), recently announced a ban on products containing parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate. Apparently they had been working with suppliers to eliminate these chemicals, and finally decided to reject many well-known brands and formulate their own products instead. How many were rejected? The numbers are in the hundreds!

Holland & Barrett is the first company to take such action, but others are thinking about following suit. Morrisons, one of the U.K.’s leading supermarket chains, is also reviewing the dangers of parabens.

The fact that Holland & Barrett is a health food store and still has to take such steps to encourage change highlights the importance of reading labels. Cancer patients, in particular, have extremely sensitive and compromised skin, which means dangerous chemicals can more readily penetrate the skin’s barrier and get into the bloodstream. According to Samuel Epstein, Cancer Prevention Coalition chairman, “numerous published scientific studies over the last two decades have shown that parabens…pose toxic, estrogen-like effects.”

Sodium lauryl sulfate, as well, though there is no evidence that it is carcinogenic, is, according to Epstein, “a strong irritant to the skin,” with prolonged exposure causing disruption of “the skin barrier integrity of the skin.” As to the “prolonged exposure,” do we really need to be concerned? Considering that sodium lauryl sulfate is in so many of our daily products (like shampoo, body wash, shave cream, toothpaste, etc.), and that we use these products at least one-two times every day, the question of accumulative exposure is definitely a serious one.

Many of us think that if we go to a health food store to buy our products, we don’t have to worry about them containing these potentially harmful ingredients. Yet this announcement shows that even health food stores carry brands of products with questionable formulations.

We have to commend companies like Holland & Barrett for taking a stand for safety and health. It is strong decisions like these that will force manufacturers to think twice before putting toxic ingredients into their formulations. We’re hoping that more companies will follow suit-particularly here in the U.S. After all, if manufacturers can’t get their products onto the shelves because they’re using certain ingredients, what a motivation to adjust the formulations so they can!

In the meantime, we urge all Cinco Vidas readers to continue reading labels and using the power of their purchasing dollars to make manufacturers pay attention. We can also use our voices to communicate our discontent. According to Misha Warbanski, writing for “Herizons Magazine,” “Until we can get all toxic ingredients banned from personal care products, a generous application of consumer pressure may be our best bet.”

What do you think of the action taken by Holland & Barrett? Have you become more cautious in your purchasing decisions?

Photo courtesy David Kozlowski