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Microbes and Safety Standards
For the purpose of setting acceptable levels of microbial contamination, the EU Commission has divided cosmetics and toiletries into two categories. Category -1 products are those for use on infants under the age of three, for use on near the eyes, or for use on or near mucous membranes.
All other personal care products are classified as Category -2 products. Simply put, when you buy Category-1 products, they must contain 50 times fewer microbes than Category-2 products. Additionally, since microbes are likely to get into personal care products during normal use, there must be sufficient preservatives added to the product, to prevent contamination from rising above these levels.
Three pathogens (disease-causing microbes) that commonly live on the human body are Candida albicans, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staphylococcus aureus.
Normally they do not cause illness or disease because their numbers are controlled by friendly microbes, or by our immune system. If, however, they enter parts of the body where they can breed rapidly, or if our immune system is weakened (for example, during a viral infection such as flu), they may cause illness.
These three pathogens have also been identified as the most likely microbes to enter and contaminate personal care products during normal use. EU regulations require sufficient levels of preservatives to be added to kill the microbes - the test being that none of them should be detectable in 0.5 grams (or 0.5 millilitres) of a Category- 1 product, or 0.1 grams (or o.1 millilitres) of a Category-2 product.
This means there will be higher levels of preservatives in Category-1 products for babies and sensitive areas of the body, than in the more commonly used Category- 2 products. This could imply that baby shampoo is not necessarily more gentle than ordinary shampoo if it contains a higher concentration of preservative than an equivalent formulation for adults.
The importance of keeping our personal care products free from microbes must not be underestimated. Now here is this most important than for contact-lens users. During the last decade and a half, Acanthamoeba, a single-cell protozoan (member of the amoeba family), has caused eye infections in several contact-lens users.
Most of the cases were linked to poor contact-lens hygiene or to using cleansing solutions that did not adequately kill this microbe. As the number of contact-lens users has increased, the number of reported cases of acanthamoeba keratitis has also risen.
If caught early, this painful eye disease can be easily treated but some patients have lost eyes to this microbe or have required corneal transplants to correct the damage. To keep this in perspective, during one year in the mid-nineties, there were 70 eyes lost to acanthsmoeba in the UK. That same year, 90 eyes were lost to champagne corks.
Reference:Cosmetics Unmasked: Dr Stephen & Gina Antczak
Synthetics in Cosmetics
Are certain synthetic chemicals in cosmetics not just adding to the undesirable bio accumulation of such chemicals in the environment, food chains and humans?
'No, that's not the case.The cosmetics industry is well aware of the issues such as bioaccumulation and also of how the term can tend to be misused.
Bioaccumulation is where there is evidence of a substance remaining present and building up over time. The presence of a substance, whether it be in human or in the environment, is not evidence of bioaccumulation, though the ability to detect such small levels does demonstrate the advances made in chemical analysis in recent years.
Levels of substances maybe falling over time (and therefore cannot be described as bioaccumulation), may be static or maybe increasing. The key indicators are the rate of change, the anticipated steady-state level and the safe level.
Only if any substance is accumulating to a point where it may exceed safe levels is there any need to take action, and this goes for all of the substances used in commerce. In fact, levels of cosmetic ingredients sometimes claimed to be bioaccumulating have actually been shown to have fallen.'
Dr Christopher Flower, director-general, the cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA)
Reference: Toxic Beauty : Dawn Mellowship
Microbes and Bacteria
The fact of preservatives being used, and their amount, should be stated on the label.
Today Eu and FDA labeling regulations allow the names of preservatives to be hidden within the list of ingredients and their quantities not stated.
So far, this blog has focused on the adverse effects of cosmetic ingredients, but these are not the only things in cosmetics that can harm you. Dangerous microbes can breed in the products and so it is important to add preservatives to ensure that harmful bacteria are not allowed to thrive and multiply.
However, after colorants and fragrances, preservatives are probably the next main cause of adverse reactions to cosmetics and toiletries. It is for this reason that there are regulations and restrictions on the use of most preservatives.
Microbe is a common word for micro-organism. It is a general term used to describe any microscopic, single -celled, living organism. It is often extended to include some multi-celled, complex organisms such as mold and fungi, and viruses, which do not have cells.
The most common microbes that can potentially infect personal care products are molds, fungi, yeasts, bacteria, and protozoa. (Viruses rarely infect cosmetics because they can only reproduce inside cells and other living organisms). When a microbe infects a product, it feeds on the ingredients to get the energy it needs for reproduction.
The rapidly reproducing microbes usually produce a bad smell and may cause some clear products to become cloudy. They also release toxic substances as waste products, to help them digest and absorb food, and to kill other microbes that may be in competition with them. They can also chemically alter ingredients, causing colors and odors to change. The altered substances may be poisonous or harmful.
Microbes enter personal care products during manufacturer, when the containers are filled, and while you are using them at home. There is a danger that microbes in cosmetics and toiletries may be transferred to your body and start an infection.
The microbes may feed on your body tissues, causing damage to the tissues, and they often release toxins into your bloodstream. For this reason, virtually all personal care products you buy will contain at least one preservative, and often more, to inhibit the growth of microbes in the product.
They may also contain antimicrobials, which control the growth of microbes on your body. Some products are irradiated with gamma rays to kill any microbes that may have entered the product during the manufacture and packaging process.
Reference:Cosmetics Unmasked: Dr Stephen & Gina Antczak
Chemicals Lingering In The Environment
It is not just our health that may be affected by the increasing amounts of chemicals we use on a daily basis. Our environment suffers as well.Many of the chemicals in our beauty products are also present in a myriad of other household or other products that we eat, drink, apply or otherwise encounter on a daily basis, and scores of these can persist and accumulate in our bodies and the surrounding environment. In the 1998 European Environment Agency (EEA) commented that,
'Manufactured chemicals are widespread in the air, soil, water sediments and biota Europe's environment following the marketing of up to 100,00chemicals in the EU, their use and disposal and degradation. There is a serious lack of monitering and information on these chemicals.... and related exposures and effects on people and ecosystems ...
Currently toxicity risk assessments are based mainly of a single substances, but people and ecosystems are generally exposed to complex mixtures ...widespread exposures to low doses of chemicals may be causing harm, possibly irreversibly, particularly to sensitive groups such as children and pregnant women and to parts of the environment."
Fish, birds and a variety of other animals have been shown to suffer embryo defects, cancers, and injury to nervous, reproductive and immune systems as a result of environmental chemical exposures. Declining populations of certain bird species have been linked with the indirect effects of pesticides.
In the 1970s dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was associated with reproductive malfunction in eagles and other birds. Since then other studies have highlighted the damaging effects of this pesticide on wildlife.
Unfortunately the harmful long-term effects of many toxic chemicals do not become apparent until years after they release into the environment. Once we reach the stage where there is clear evidence of the negative consequences for our health, significant damage has already taken place.
Daily we flush away and wash down the drain millions of gallons of chemicals, which enter the sewer systems and pollute the waterways. If toxic chemicals are not sufficiently removed before being released and entering the aquatic environment they can be absorbed by wildlife thereby entering the food chain.
Persistent chemicals are not easily broken down in the environment and can travel long distances and survive for many years. When they fail to degrade and are constantly being released into the environment, their concentration increases. Lipophilic (fat-loving) molecules are not water soluble and tend to become concentrated in the fatty tissues of living organisms, including humans.
Substances that are lipophilic and persistent can easily be taken in by organisms from polluted environments, where they can be bio-accumulate in the food chain. Under the process known as bio-magnification the concentration of a substance is multiplied every time it is consumed by something higher up in the food chain.his results in concentrations millions of times higher than they were in the original physical environment. Fairly high levels of contaminants have been found in top predator species in the Arctic, such as Polar Bears, Beluga Whales and Seals.
Reference: Toxic Beauty : Dawn Mellowship