What’s REALLY In The Products Your Athletes Use?
As sports parents, we are constantly telling our kids to put on sunblock, pre-hydrate, stretch, bundle up. We want to keep them safe and healthy. But have you ever thought about the ingredients in the very products we are buying for them?
Allergies, cancers, autoimmune issues and neurological disorders all seem to have skyrocketed over the past twenty years. I’m not a doctor or a scientist, but you don’t need to be one to figure out there’s a good possibility that some of the rise is related to all the extra toxins and junk that’s now in our food, personal products, and environment.
I’ve always practiced an integrative approach to medicine, a blending of Eastern and Western philosophies when it comes to treating and healing myself and my family. We’ve had success with both. Part of my health conscious journey led me to questions like how to best navigate and protect my kids from the barrage of chemicals in our environment, without making myself crazy. Recently my sister-in-law, Michelle Berkley – a regular contributor to I Love To Watch You Play – started a company, PURE, their focus is to help others live healthy lives in a variety of different ways, including analyzing personal products for chemicals and toxins. So I asked Michelle to analyze the products my 14-year-old water polo player uses most often. With high school and club practice, she slathers on sunscreen, spends 2-3 hours in the chlorine and sun, washes her body and hair, covers herself in lotion and repeats that routine twice a day, five, six or seven days a week. That’s A LOT of product.
Michelle researched my daughter’s products on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database. You can input any personal care product there and they will give you its hazard rating. The EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.
Michelle then tallied the combined chemical exposures across all three products. The findings were alarming.
– Three items my daughter uses above alone contain more than 20 different chemicals classified as a moderate to high hazard by EWG;
-All three of her current products are rated a 5 or higher overall on EWG’s 10-point hazard scale;
-All three of her products contain fragrance, code word for hidden ingredients. According to the EWG, the word fragrance represents 3,100 stock chemicals, none of which is required to be listed on labels. EWG tests of fragrance ingredients have found an average of 14 hidden compounds per formulation.
There is no doubt that our personal care products contain many chemicals and what you do with that information is the tough part. In the United States, there are only 11 ingredients or chemical groups declared as unsafe for use in cosmetics, while in Europe over 1,300 ingredients have been banned. Here is a great article explaining how little regulation there is in the personal product industry.
It’s difficult to sort through all the information and the basis for where the studies are coming from, including who might be funding them. Additionally, it’s important to point out, the branding of products considered “natural” can be misleading as well. Last year, Consumer Reports analyzed sunscreens and many of the “natural” brands scored less than their “chemical” counterparts in protecting from UVA and UVB rays. So it’s important you do your own research and not rely on “natural” branding to choose your products. Consumerreports.org recommends California Kids #Supersensitive Lotion SPF 30+. It was the highest-performing “natural” sunscreen in their tests and received good ratings across the board.
My plan is to switch over most of my daughter’s products, probably not all of them. It’s the same approach I use in other similar areas of my life, like eating mostly organic fruits and vegetables, I do the best I can, but I don’t make myself crazy. Toxins are everywhere, you do the best you can to limit them, but it’s impossible to get rid of them completely. So please don’t let this post make you crazy.
A NOTE FROM PURE: As consumers, we often think that if a product is sold at retail, it must be safe. But, when it comes to personal care products, there is very little federal regulation. According to the FDA, under U.S. law, it does not have the authority to require cosmetic manufacturers to submit their safety data to FDA, and the burden is on FDA to prove that a particular product or ingredient is harmful when used as intended.