Common Toxic Chemicals and Cancer risk

Reproduced from Cancer Active

15 ingredients to evict from your Bathroom and Toilet Bag

Toxic Toiletries image

Is your bathroom cabinet bulging with toxins?

Is your make–up or toilet bag a cocktail of chemicals that could do you harm?

We are not saying any one of these is a direct cause of cancer, although several are known carcinogens while others affect your immune system, nervous system or internal organs. If you are at all interested in Cancer Prevention, you might think to check out the ingredients list on your bottles and jars: the higher up the list these 15 come, the greater the concentration.

So chuck out the offenders, look before you buy and invest in safer alternatives.


A Class A carcinogen it is used as a disinfectant, fixative, germicide and preservative in a wide variety of products from deodorants to liquid soaps, and from nail varnish to shampoos. Also known as formalin, formal and methyl aldehyde, it has been linked in research to lung cancer and leukaemia. It can damage DNA, irritate the eyes, upper respiratory tract and mucous membrane, and may cause asthma and headaches. It is banned in Japan and Sweden.


Sometimes refered to as “gender benders”, these are a family of industrial plasticisers already banned in the EU from being used in plastic toys, but still widely found in plastic bottles and plastic cups. If the contents is heated, the heat can further denature the plastic causing a greater release – forever. Phthalates can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled as fumes and ingested in liquids and contaminated food, and even via breastfeeding. They are xenoestrogens, or oestrogen mimics.

Open quotesThey are banned in the EU from being used in plastic toys, but are still in toiletries
Close quotes

They can be found in shampoos, shower gels, and even your posh mountain fresh water bottles. Also found in hairsprays, top-selling perfumes and nail varnishes. Animal studies have shown they can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system – especially developing testes.


Listed as alkyl parahydroxy benzoates -butyl/methyl/ethyl/ propyl/ isobutyl parabens on products such as some toothpastes, moisturisers and deodorants. They are used as a preservative but, like phthalates, can act as oestrogen mimics. Research suggests that mimics can increase levels of active oestrogens in the body – oestrogen lies behind many cancers like breast cancer, testicular cancer, colon and prostate cancer. Xenoestrogens have been linked to reductions in sperm count.

Bisphenol A

Found in plastics, the white linings inside cans, and babies bottles. Recent Canadian research turned BPA up in cans of fizzy soft drinks too. Banned in Canada, and in toys for the under 3´s in California, BPA is another plastic–based oestrogen mimic

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)

is one of the ingredients in many a shampoo, bubble bath, liquid soap etc. Why, when it is a known skin irritant, stops hair growth, can cause cataracts in adults, damage children´s eye development and cause urinary tract infection?

Because it´s cheap and produces lots of bubbles when mixed with salt. Hardly compensation! Sodium Laureth Ether Sulphate (SLES) is a slightly less irritant form of SLS, but may cause more drying. Both can lead to potentially carcinogenic cocktails of nitrites and dioxins forming in shampoos and cleansers, by reacting with other ingredients. SLS actually increases the permeability of the skin by about 40 per cent. Skin is not a barrier – it´s a carrier. If anyone tells you otherwise, ask them how HRT and nicotine patches work?


Nail polish
is a common solvent found in nail enamels, hair gels, hair spray, and perfumes. It is a neurotoxin and oestrogen mimic and can damage the liver, disrupt the endocrine system and cause asthma.


In America toothpaste labels clearly warn about fluoride use. Consider carefully this warning: ‘As in all fluoride toothpastes, keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional assistance or contact a Poison Control Centre immediately’. Fluoride is even added to mouthwash. It probably does no good at all if you are over 35 and the FDA has stated that it should be avoided by pregnant women.


Recent research from Australia linked alcohol-based mouthwashes to higher rates of mouth, tongue and throat cancer. (These cancer are on the increase particularly in 40-something adults). Smokers and people who drank alcohol as well as using these mouthwashes had 3 to 5 times higher rates of these cancers. ´Should be banned´, was the researchers conclusion.

Propylene Glycol

is a cosmetic form of mineral oil (refined crude oil) used in industrial anti-freeze. People handling it are warned by the manufacturer to avoid skin contact and wear respirators and rubber gloves etc, and yet this is a major ingredient in most moisturisers, skin creams, baby wipes and sun screens. Why? It´s cheap and gives the “glide” factor in body lotions – but is in fact robbing lower layers of skin of moisture. Lanolin and collagen can also clog pores and cause skin to age faster than if nothing was used.


is recognised as carcinogenic and has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer and general urinary tract disorders. On some baby powder tins it actually says, ´Do not use near mouth or nose´! The distant cousin of asbestos, so don´t dust it on your baby´s, or anyone else´s, bottom! And certainly not near your mouth and nose – of course it is in make–up face packs and ´powder puffs´.


A typical cosmetic can contain up to 150 chemicals in the perfume alone! 95 per cent of these chemicals are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum -26 of which are on an EU hit list. Fragrances have been linked to allergies and breathing difficulties and they penetrate the skin. The ingredients do not legally have to be declared. Avoid all skin contact with fragrances.


is also listed, for example, as xytol or dimethylbenzene on nail varnish bottles. It can damage your liver, is narcotic in high concentrations and causes skin and respiratory tract irritation.


And also Tri- and Mono- (DEA, TEA and MEA) are absorbed through skin where they accumulate. If found in products also containing nitrates, they react and form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.


Vitamin A – retinyl palmitate

Is found in many skin creams, skin lotions and sunscreens. There is a growing body of research expressing concern that, far from helping with skin damage, this pre-sensitises the skin to the harmful effects of Ultra Violet rays in sunshine. The FDA is reviewing concerns that this may actually cause more skin cancers!


Sometimes listed as 5-chloro-2 (2,4-dichlorophenoxy) phenol, is an antibacterial agent in deodorants, toothpastes, vaginal washes and mouthwashes. Toxic dioxins are produced during its manufacture or incineration. It is stored in breast milk and in fish, and can break down in water to create a member of the dioxin family, a proven carcinogen. Serious concerns are under investigation right now.

Paraphenylenediamine or PPD is used in dark hair dyes. Tests on rats have shown that PPD may cause cancer, after long-term use with hydrogen peroxide. Now look at the next ingredient in the list! It has been implicated in numerous bladder cancer cases in California. The perfect excuse to go blonde?

While we are on this subject, the two top toxins found to accumulate in our bodies during our normal daily lives in research were formaldehyde and dichlorobenzene. And this occurs whether we live in cities or in the countryside. The dangers start at home (Dichlorobenzene is in many of those supposedly nice smelling things people freshen their toilets, carpets and rooms with).

Look for alternatives – you can start with Janey Lee Grace´s book, ´Look great Naturally. Without ditching the lipstick´.


. Intelligent Information. Independent Voice.

Safety Data Sheet for ONE commonly used ingredient in Personal Care – Toothpaste, soaps and shampoos to name but three!

Safety Data Sheet for Sodium Laurel Sulphate - a free report