Friday, October 12, 2007

Lipstick: Don’t Lead Me Down!

Talk about heavy makeup: How about lead-laced lipstick? The toxic heavy metal, which causes nervous system damage and developmental deficits in overexposed children and is also linked to reduced fertility, has been found in several lipsticks from popular brands, according to a report released today by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC). Lead levels higher than the FDA’s 0.1 part-per-million (ppm) limit for lead in candy were found in L’Oreal, Cover Girl and Dior lipsticks. One more good reason to keep cosmetics out of children’s reach!

The FDA has not established a limit for lead in lipstick. Time for the agency to stop polishing its nails.

One-third of the 33 big-brand lipsticks CSC tested contained lead above FDA’s candy limit. Sixty-one percent contained some amount of lead—which did not appear on ingredient lists. Check the names in your makeup bag, and remember, While CSC couldn’t test all lipsticks, their report gives some welcome specifics, below.

Lightest Lipsticks (less than 0.02 ppm lead)

Avon Ultra Rich Cherry Jubilee
Body Shop Lip Color Garnet
Clinique Long Last Lipstick Merlot
Dior Replenishing Lipcolor Red Premiere
Estee Lauder Maraschino
MAC Matte Lipstick Viva Glam 1
Revlon Superlustrous Love That Red, Superlustrous Bed of Roses, Colorstay Red Velvet
Tarte Inside Out Vitamin Lipstick
Wet N Wild Mega Colors Cherry Blossom

Heaviest Hitters (more than 0.1 ppm lead)

L’Oreal Colour Riche True Red, Colour Riche Classic Wine
Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor Maximum Red, Continuous Color Cherry Brandy
Dior Addict Positive Red
Maybelline Moisture Extreme Cocoa Plum, Moisture Extreme Midnight Red
Peacekeeper Paint Me Compassionate

One brand may have both light and heavy lipsticks because contamination may occur at various points along the sourcing and manufacture chain. CSC is calling for an industry overhaul, and asks consumers to write our representatives to seek removal of lead and other hazardous ingredients in cosmetics (see “parabens,” Word of the Week at For the full report, including lipsticks with trace amounts of lead below FDA’s candy levels, see For the scoop on lax regulation of toxins in cosmetics and other consumer products, see Mark Schapiro's incisive and informative new book, Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power

Monday, October 8, 2007

Best for the Breast

Be aware: A beauty product’s “natural” claims don’t mean it’s free of synthetic chemicals. You’ve still got to read the fine print. Ingredients can vary a lot between different products made by the same company. Earlier this year, while shopping at l’Occitane, my eyes were drawn to a bust-firming gel. What a good idea, and how very French! As always, though, I read the ingredients list.

Sadly, alongside the certified-organic essential oils of lavender and the extract of nettle, were listed those troublesome paraben preservatives that cause the proliferation of breast cancer cells in lab tests. Not exactly what you’d want in a breast cream.

Heureusement, paraben-free alternatives abound in other body lotions, including some of l’Occitane’s, as follows.

Paraben- and Fragrance (Phthalate)-Free Body Creams

L’Occitane certified Bio Organic Lait Corps with Essential Oil of Lavender, $22 for 8.4 oz., or eponymous boutiques.

Avalon Organics Peppermint, Rosemary, Lemon, Ylang Ylang, Lavender or Aloe Unscented Hand & Body Lotion, $9.95 for 12 oz., or Whole Foods (it’s $6.99 in some of their stores), drugstores.

Jurlique Rose Body Lotion, $38 for 8 oz., at better drugstores.

Terressentials Organic Flower Therapy or Fragrance-Free Silken Velvet Body Lotions, $23.75 or $22.50, respetively, for 8 oz.,

Dr. Bronner's & Sun Dog's Magic Organic Patchouli Lime, Peppermint, Orange Lavender or Lavender Coconut Lotion, $9.99 for 8 oz.,


Friday, October 5, 2007

Better Toothpastes

While no one needs triclosan in toothpaste, per our Oct. 4th “Daily Tips,” what about fluoride? Should we brush with it, or not? Quick answer: Yes, children should use fluoridated toothpaste to help prevent cavities, says the American Dental Association, except for those younger than two years, who might swallow rather than spit it out.

Why the concern? Risks of too much fluoride exposure include skeletal fluorosis, or brittle bones, and dental fluorosis, or discoloration of teeth. And 67 percent of Americans are already swallowing fluoride in their tap water. Fluoride has been added to New York City drinking water since 1965. Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and other Southern California counties, on the other hand, are scheduled to start fluoridation of public water supplies in November, despite opposition from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which argues that children get enough protection in toothpaste, the form in which fluoride is most effective against cavities, and that adding fluoride to drinking water will expose up to 64,000 children to levels that exceed safety thresholds established by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Association of Science.

Note: Most water filters, including Brita and Pur, do not remove fluoride.

Fluoride or not, unsavory and possibly unhealthy ingredients in conventional toothpastes can include triclosan, saccharine and other artificial sweeteners, phthalates, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium hydroxide (lye).

GreenerPenny’s Better Toothpaste Picks

With Fluoride:

Tom’s Natural Anticavity Baking Soda toothpaste uses fluoride to fight cavities and peppermint oil for taste. Free of artificial sweeteners. $3.99 at, $2.99 on the shelf at Whole Foods.

Jason Power Smile All Natural Whitening CoQ10 Tooth Gel contains fluoride, but the flavors are all from plant essential oils (no phthalate-laced synthetic “fragrances”), $7.49 at

Without Fluoride:

A fresh find, Tate’s Natural Miracle Toothpaste, made in Ohio, is fluoride- and petrochemical-free, made of plant extracts such as peppermint, geranium and sage. Pricey but tasty at $14.95 for a 5-oz bottle,

More affordable, Jason Sea Fresh, Deep-Sea Spearmint and Power Smile All-Natural Whitening toothpastes are also fluoride-free, $5.69 at, $3.99 at Whole Foods; Kiss My Face AloeDyne Whitening Toothpaste, $5.99 at

Sick of Mint? Auromere Mint-free Herbal Toothpaste is flavored with cinnamon, rose apple and clove, $5.99 at

Plenty Picks:

In this month’s Plenty Magazine ( an editor seeking saccharine-free toothpastes preferred these 5 out of a test group of 12: Jason Power Smile with fluoride (above); Kiss My Face Triple Action Certified Organic Aloe Vera Toothpaste CoQ10 Tooth Gel, without, $6 (; The Natural Dentist Healthy Teeth & Gums Toothpaste, fluoride-free with Xylitol, $5.99 (; TheraNeem Herbal Neem Toothpaste, without, $7.49 (; and Weleda Salt Toothpaste,without, $4.99, or at Whole Foods.

More Info:

For the science on fluoride, and safety tips, see and

For an excellent overview of the current fluoride controversy in Southern California, see

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Toothy Toxins

Thanks to Eduardo Arias, an intrepid, label-reading shopper in Panama, toxic diethylene glycol, a.k.a. antifreeze, was found in Chinese-made toothpaste. Not only did Mr. Arias recognize this poison, which, in tainted cough syrup, killed or injured 138 Panamanians last year, but he trekked on foot to three pass-the-buck government offices to press a complaint that was soon heard around the world. The modest whistleblower remained anonymous, however, until tracked down by The New York Times, which published his story on October 1.

Meanwhile, there’s another ingredient that deserves the brush-off. The other day, happy to have bought a brand-name toothpaste for cheap, I nearly fainted upon reading the ingredients list. I had just brushed my teeth with triclosan, an antimicrobial chemical usually found (and to be avoided) in liquid soaps. I had never seen triclosan in toothpaste before. Why was it there? “Antigingivitis,” the label said somewhat cryptically.

The American Dental Association pamphlet, “Preventing Periodontal Disease,” does not mention triclosan. It says that gingivitis, or receding and infected gums, can be prevented by brushing twice a day, flossing between teeth, and getting a regular cleaning from a dentist. (see

The problem: The American Medical Association, World Health Organization and others have warned for years that triclosan-spiked soaps not only are no more effective than ordinary soap, but their use may contribute to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Furthermore, when exposed to chlorinated water (the kind that comes out of taps in 84% of large municipal systems, according to the America Waterworks Association), triclosan can produce chloroform, a probably human carcinogen, according to this month's The Green Guide (, which lists some more natural alternatives.

Rather than serve yourself a toxic morsel on your toothbrush, check the label and reject triclosan and diethylene glycol.

Thank you, Mr. Aria!

Remember, there's always baking soda. And a drop of Dr. Bronner's.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Air Fresheners: Look and Sniff Before You Spray

Some hostesses go mad with the air freshener sprays around holiday time. They're being sprayed to give a little toxic holiday ambiance, and in the bathrooms to cover up the shocking evidence of children home for the holidays. It’s gross, but true: Just about every college student on the planet is guilty of using air fresheners to put off laundry day or sweeten the smell of a musty college dorm room. These days the handy little spray-bottles-of-clean are used to freshen up just about anything, including underarms and that pair of jeans you’ve worn for four days in a row. But masking not-so-fresh smells with yet another smell can hurt more than your social life. Many aerosol refreshers are tainted with toxic phthalates, which have been linked to birth defects and reproductive harm. A 2007 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study found that the hormone-disrupting compounds in 12 out of 14 common air fresheners and none of these products listed phthalates on their labels. Many of these products were labeled “natural” or “unscented.” Febreze Air Effects Air Refresher, unlike thirteen others in NRDC's tests, was found to be free of toxic phthalates, which have been linked to birth defects and reproductive harm. In response to the tests, Walgreen’s last week pledged to remove all phthalates from its branded air fresheners. For the list of phthalate-tainted products, including Glade Air Infusions and both Febreze and Glade scented oils, go to Of course, there are many dozens more air fresheners on the market that haven’t been vetted for phthalates. What to do?
1. Look Before You Spray. Read labels. If you see the word “Fragrance,” it’s likely that the manufacturer is taking an advantage of an FDA labeling loophole that allows users of synthetic fragrance to avoid mentioning specific ingredients—including phthalates, used to disperse synthetic scents. Look instead for specific essential plant oils, preferably organic.
2. Do a Sniff Test. Before buying any fragranced product, natural or not, spray some from a tester to see whether it produces sneezes or itchy eyes. Strong fragrances, particularly citrus or pine, can provoke irritation and allergic/asthmatic reactions. And remember, when it comes to any perfume, a little goes a long way, so you needn’t overdo it.
3. For greener products, see Pass this info on to your odor-phobic college student, teen or preteen, mom, mother-in-law.