Monday, December 17, 2012

Chemerical Documentary review


While watching a bunch of enlightening documentaries on a range of subjects I found Chemerical. This documentary was made by a man who had a young child whose health he was worried about with all the chemicals in everyday household products. The documentary maker got a family to volunteer to switch their products away from chemicals for a time period, I believe it was three months. He had someone explain to them what was in the products they were using, and walk them through the process.

The family said they were willing to do the documentary but had many reservations about it. I am switching over and part of me is dreading it because I'm worried it might be more expensive, less effective, or time consuming if I make my own products.

The Goode family made their own products for the most part however. After buying the supplies to make the products they waited a week and by that time they decided they couldn't wait longer and "jumped on the wagon." The Goode family made a range of products from laundry soap, to toothpaste, to hair gel. I was very impressed with the hair gel, it seemed just as good as the store bought the boy had been using but had no adverse health effects, no environmental effects, and was much more cost efficient.

During the documentary there were two things that caught my eye that I would like to quote. First and foremost this statistic was given early in the documentary "Woman who stay home have a cancer rate 54% higher than woman who work outside the home." This is a huge problem to me given that children stay at home until they are school age and their bodies are more susceptible. There are ways to test your air quality, is one site that offers a product/service to check the air quality in your house. According to this site "82% of the homes tested don’t meet safe indoor air quality standards."

 The 2nd quote I want to share from the documentary was from the owner of Green Breaver, a family run green business. "If you can't eat it you shouldn't put it on your skin".Green Beaver sells organic edible hygiene products such as lotion, shampoo, etc. I'm not suggesting his products taste good, I wouldn't know, however they have no adverse effects if consumed, and since your skin is an organ that absorbs whatever you put on it than even without eating the product you are in a way consuming it.

Since this documentary focused on the health issue rather than environmental I have during this blog post as well. I have included sources for additional health information I posted about the chemicals that were mentioned in the documentary. If you want information about the environmental risks of these chemicals than follow the source link and on most of them I believe some information about environmental impact will be listed. Although I didn't post the harmful effects on the environment of these chemicals seeing how harmful they can be to our health I think most readers will be able to draw parallels to what they can do when they make their way from our drains into oceans, rivers, and streams.

The chemicals that were discussed during the doumentary are:


Inhalation: Ammonia is irritating and corrosive. Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia in air causes immediate burning of the nose, throat and respiratory tract. This can cause bronchiolar and alveolar edema, and airway destruction resulting in respiratory distress or failure. Inhalation of lower concentrations can cause coughing, and nose and throat irritation. Ammonia's odor provides adequate early warning of its presence, but ammonia also causes olfactory fatigue or adaptation, reducing awareness of one's prolonged exposure at low concentrations.
Children exposed to the same concentrations of ammonia vapor as adults may receive a larger dose because they have greater lung surface area-to-body weight ratios and increased minute volumes-to-weight ratios. In addition, they may be exposed to higher concentrations than adults in the same location because of their shorter height and the higher concentrations of ammonia vapor initially found near the ground.
Skin or eye contact: Exposure to low concentrations of ammonia in air or solution may produce rapid skin or eye irritation. Higher concentrations of ammonia may cause severe injury and burns. Contact with concentrated ammonia solutions such as industrial cleaners may cause corrosive injury including skin burns, permanent eye damage or blindness. The full extent of eye injury may not be apparent for up to a week after the exposure. Contact with liquefied ammonia can also cause frostbite injury.
Ingestion: Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia from swallowing ammonia solution results in corrosive damage to the mouth, throat and stomach. Ingestion of ammonia does not normally result in systemic poisoning.
chlorine bleach-
The health effects resulting from most chlorine exposures begin within seconds to minutes. The severity of the signs and symptoms caused by chlorine will vary according to amount, route and duration of exposure.
Inhalation: Most chlorine exposures occur via inhalation. Low level exposures to chlorine in air will cause eye/skin/airway irritation, sore throat and cough. Chlorine's odor provides adequate early warning of its presence, but also causes olfactory fatigue or adaptation, reducing awareness of one's prolonged exposure at low concentrations. At higher levels of exposure, signs and symptoms may progress to chest tightness, wheezing, dyspnea, and bronchospasm. Severe exposures may result in noncardiogenic pulmonary edema, which may be delayed for several hours.
Ingestion: Since chlorine is a gas at room temperature, it is unlikely that a severe exposure will result from ingestion. However, ingestion of chlorine dissolved in water (e.g., sodium hypochlorite or household bleach) will cause corrosive tissue damage of the gastrointestinal tract.
Eye/Dermal Contact: Low level exposures to chlorine gas will cause eye and skin irritation. Higher exposures may result in severe chemical burns or ulcerations. Exposure to compressed liquid chlorine may cause frostbite of the skin and eyes.
Children may receive a larger dose than adults exposed to environments with the same levels of chlorine gas because they have greater lung surface area-to-body weight ratios and increased minute volumes-to-weight ratios. In addition, they may be exposed to higher levels than adults in the same location because of their shorter height and the higher levels of chlorine gas that may be found nearer the ground.

Health Hazard Information

Acute Effects:
  • Acute exposure of humans to naphthalene by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact is associated with hemolytic anemia, damage to the liver, and, in infants, neurological damage.  Symptoms of acute exposure include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, malaise, confusion, anemia, jaundice, convulsions, and coma. (1,2,6,7)
  • Cataracts have been reported in humans acutely exposed to naphthalene by inhalation and ingestion.  Cataracts have also been reported in animals following acute oral exposure. (6,7,9)
  • Tests involving acute exposure of rats, mice, rabbits, and guinea pigs have demonstrated naphthalene to have moderate to high acute toxicity from ingestion and low to moderate acute toxicity from dermal exposure. (3)
Chronic Effects (Noncancer):
  • Chronic exposure of workers to naphthalene has been reported to cause cataracts and retinal hemorrhage. (2,4,5,6,7)
  • Chronic inflammation of the lung, chronic nasal inflammation, hyperplasia of the respiratory epithelium in the nose, and metaplasia of the olfactory epithelium were reported in mice chronically exposed to naphthalene via inhalation. (1,6,7)
  • Rats, rabbits, and mice chronically exposed to naphthalene via ingestion have developed cataracts and degeneration of the retina. (2,5,6,7)
  • Diarrhea, lethargy, hunched posture, rough coats, decreased body weight, and lesions in the kidneys and thymus were observed in rats and mice chronically exposed via gavage (experimentally placing the chemical in the stomach). (2,6,7)
  • EPA has calculated a Reference Concentration (RfC) of 0.003 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) for naphthalene based on nasal effects in mice. The RfC is an estimate (with uncertainty spanning perhaps an order of magnitude) of a continuous inhalation exposure to the human population (including sensitive subgroups) that is likely to be without appreciable risk of deleterious noncancer effects during a lifetime.  It is not a direct estimator of risk but rather a reference point to gauge the potential effects.  At exposures increasingly greater than the RfC, the potential for adverse health effects increases.  Lifetime exposure above the RfC does not imply that an adverse health effect would necessarily occur. (6,7)
  • EPA has medium confidence in the RfC based on: 1) medium confidence in the principal study because adequate numbers of animals were used, severity of nasal effects increased at higher exposure concentrations, high mortality, and hematological evaluation not conducted beyond 14 days; and 2) low to medium confidence in the database because there are no chronic or subchronic inhalation studies in other animal species and there are no reproductive or developmental inhalation studies. (6,7)
  • The Reference Dose (RfD) for naphthalene is 0.02 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg/d) based on decreased body weight in male rats. (6,7)
  • EPA has low confidence in the RfD based on: 1) high confidence in the principal study because adequate numbers of animals were included and experimental protocols were adequately designed, conducted, and reported; and 2) low confidence in the database because of the lack of adequate chronic oral data, dose-response data for hemolytic anemia, and two-generation reproductive toxicological studies. (6,7)
Reproductive/Developmental Effects:
  • Hemolytic anemia has been reported in infants born to mothers who "sniffed" and ingested naphthalene (as mothballs) during pregnancy.  The mothers themselves were anemic, but to a lesser extent than the infants. (5,6,7)
  • Signs of maternal toxicity (e.g., decreased body weight and lethargy) but no fetal effects were reported in rats and rabbits exposed to naphthalene via gavage. (6,7)
  • Maternal toxicity (increased mortality and reduced weight gain) and fetotoxicity (reduced number of live pups per litter) were observed in mice exposed via gavage. (2,6,7)
Cancer Risk:
  • Workers occupationally exposed to vapors of naphthalene and coal tar developed laryngeal carcinomas or neoplasms of the pylorus and cecum.  However, this study is inadequate because there were no controls, exposure levels were not determined, and subjects were exposed to complex mixtures containing other demonstrated carcinogens. (2,5,6,7)
  • Di-, tri-, and tetramethyl naphthalene contaminants of coal tar were found to be carcinogenic when applied to the skin of mice, but naphthalene alone was not. (2,5)
  • An increased number of alveolar/bronchiolar adenomas and carcinomas were reported in female mice exposed by inhalation. (1,6,7)
  • No carcinogenic responses were reported in rats exposed to naphthalene in their diet and by injection. (2,5,6)
  • EPA has classified naphthalene as a Group C, possible human carcinogen. (6,7)

Since the 2008 assessment, additional data on effects of triclosan on thyroid hormones and estrogen-related effects have also been made available from EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD). ORD studies on the thyroid and estrogen effects led EPA to determine that more research on the potential health consequences of endocrine effects of triclosan is warranted. This research is underway and will help characterize the human relevance and potential risk of these effects observed in initial laboratory animal studies.
The Agency has previously indicated that because of the amount of research being planned and currently in progress, it will undertake another comprehensive review of triclosan beginning in 2013. The Agency will pay close attention to the ongoing endocrine research and will amend the regulatory decision if the science supports such a change.
Health Concerns 

EWG's Skin Deep database, which compares cosmetic ingredients to over 50 international toxicity databases, indicates that parabens are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation (v). Since parabens are used to kill bacteria in water-based solutions, they inherently have some toxicity to cells (vi).

A 2004 UK study detected traces of five parabens in the breast cancer tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied (vii). This small study does not prove a causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer, but it is important because it detected the presence of intact parabens – unaltered by the body’s metabolism – which is an indication of the chemicals' ability to penetrate skin and remain in breast tissue. 

Of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. Parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells. They also increase the expression of genes usually regulated by estradiol (a form of estrogen); these genes cause human breast tumor cells to grow and multiply in cellular studies (viii). 

Cosmetic manufacturers, particularly those in the natural/organic sector, are seeking effective alternatives to prevent microbial growth in personal care products. Another solution is to sell products with a shorter shelf life. Companies are testing new product formulations and have created preservative-free products with a shelf life of six months to one full year. For the products most people use daily – their favorite lotion, face wash or shampoo – products are likely to be used up before they would expire. 
Sodium lauryl sulfate <sls>-
Both Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its close relative Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) arecommonly used in many soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to "foam up". Both chemicals are very effective foaming agents, chemically known as surfactants.
SLS and SLES are esters of Sulphuric acid - SLS is also known as "Sulfuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt", however there are over 150 different names by which it is known - see them here. In fact, SLES is commonly contaminated with dioxane, a known carcinogen.
Although SLES is somewhat less irritating than Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, it cannot be metabolised by the liver and its effects are therefore much longer-lasting.
report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that concentrations as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation. National Institutes of Health "Household Products Directory" of chemical ingredients lists over 80 products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Some soaps have concentrations of up to 30%, which the ACT report called "highly irritating and dangerous".
Shampoos are among the most frequently reported products to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation, scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of the hands, face and arms and split and fuzzy hair. The main cause of these problems is sodium lauryl sulfate.


Phthalates aka fragrance-

Health Effects related to Phthalates: Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Endocrine system, Reproduction and fertility, Birth or developmental effects, Persistent and bioaccumulative, Brain and nervous system, Immune system (including sensitization and allergies)


Health Effects

Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness.

If you have made it to the end of this blog post than kudos. I will be posting about harmful chemicals found in my home as I run out of products and switch over to healthier eco friendly alternatives. Cleaning supplies will probably be first and foremost on my switch over since I'm transferring apartments and they are expecting it clean enough that they don't even have to do anything to prepare it for the next tenant!