What's in that soap?My daughter was watching NBC Dateline on toxic chemicals in common ingredients and asked me to print off the list--never could find the list, but I decided to look at my own common, people products. She was particularly concerned about "moisturizers," products that keep your skin and hair soft, and I'm guessing she uses more of these products than I do (even though she's always been much prettier, even without help). Usually these are scare stories and I'm betting a lab rat would die if you washed him too many brownies and milk, too. So I'm just picking
- Meijer moisturizing liquid soap, Milk & Honey. The label says, "contains light moisturizers to help leave your hands soft . . . great for the entire family. Warnings: For external use only; avoid eyes; keep out of reach of children [scratch that "family" part, I guess]
sodium laureth sulfate
sodium lauryl sulfate
Aloe Barbadensis gel
MEL (honey) lactose
hydrolized silk protein
D&C yellow no. 10
FD&C red no. 40
- Used in car washes, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers - and in 90% of products that foam. [That sounds a bit harsh for a foaming ingredient that is widely used in cosmetics also. Do you suppose they've left something out or misled you?]
Animals exposed to SLS and ALS experience eye damage, central nervous system depression, laboured breathing, diarrhoea, severe skin irritation, and even death. ["Exposed." Does that mean full strenth into the eyes, not mixed in tiny amounts with other ingredients, then mixed with water when it's on your skin for a few seconds?]
Young eyes may not develop properly if exposed to SLS and ALS because proteins are dissolved. SLS and ALS may also damage the skin's immune system by causing layers to separate and inflame. It is frequently disguised in semi-natural cosmetics with the explanation "comes from coconut".[So, does it come from coconut or not? What's with the scare quotation marks. How young is young, and whose eyes? How much is on the skin to cause it to separate and inflame?]
Keeping in mind that hardly any group--retired bloggers, housewives, mothers or health care staff--is washing their hands often enough or even getting close to guidelines.. Alcohol rub is probably the best for disinfecting--you need about 2-3 minutes of sudsing and scrubbing with a non-medicated soap to remove even some of the microflora on your hands, and if you didn't have these various agents in your soap, you'd probably have very raw knuckles very quickly, and develop an infection from that. (BTW, doctors are less careful than nurses, did you know that?)
So then I checked Snopes.com for this ingredient, but it is only looking at a circulating e-mail on SLS and cancer, not the NBC story. He says it is a foaming agent in shampoos, soaps, toothpastes and cleaning agents, provides links to various sites, FDA, OSHA, NTP and IARC, and says they all say it is non-carcinogenic. I try those sites and either find articles so technical that I can't read them, or I find "no results."
Here's what I found on sodium laureth sulfate at an Australian government site about dermal irritation--nothing close to these quantities appears in soap, shampoo or moisturizer products, and multiple applications were needed to induce an irritation. Huge quantities taken orally did kill lab rats, but generally we don't drink our shampoo and liquid soap.
- "Sodium laureth sulfate: A large number of studies were performed with a variety of concentrations under occlusive patch for 24 – 48 hours. Applications produced no irritation at 5 – 5.6%, mild erythema and oedema at 6 – 10%, 17.5% and 26%. Severe irritation occurred at 15, 25, 28 and 30%. Severe irritation was produced in 3 applications of a 15% solution on consecutive days but similar studies with 17.5% produced only mild irritation. Single applications of 26 and 28% produced mild and moderate irritation, respectively, and an application of 58% produced no irritation. Three studies using 30% applications for 3 days produced severe irritation. Effects on the skin and hair cycles were investigated by application of the chemical daily for 65 days. A 60% concentration caused inflammatory changes, epidermal hyperplasia, epidermoid cyst formation and diffuse hair loss. A 30% concentration caused similar but less severe changes and 9% caused no changes.
I think we probably have a lot of SLS and SLES on our skin because it's in so many products, but we're not going get rashes, die or develop cancer--unless maybe it's part of our diet, or we smoke it, or use it during sex, or stay inside and wash our hair rather than going outside to walk.
Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. J Am Coll Toxicol. 2: 1 – 34 (1983).
Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. J Am Coll Toxicol. 2: 127 – 181 (1983).