27. Fish killers and carcinogens

I have an itchy scalp. There, I’ve said it, it’s out there. So I’ve been using the conventional solutions (T-Gel and sometimes a Head & Shoulders type shampoo) for a while. But then I started reading about just how bad they are in Ecoholic:

T-Gel uses coal tar, which “has long been linked to cancer, but the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. says there’s nothing to worry about when using it in such small quantities.”

Other web sites talk about the fact that it may be a skin irritant or increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, and say things like “it is unknown if this drug passes into breast milk” and “it should only be used on the advice of a doctor, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy“. Nice.

Environmental Working Group‘s (EWG) cosmetic safety database rates the original T-Gel shampoo (and you can see all of the other products) as a 7 (high hazard) out of 10 (update in 2011: now it’s an 8) on it’s scale and gives the following list “ingredients in this product are linked to: Cancer, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Violations, Restrictions & Warnings, Allergies/immunotoxicity.” Plus the other concerns: Neurotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Miscellaneous, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Enhanced skin absorption, Contamination concerns.


And then there’s the zinc pyrithione, which is used in Head and Shoulders, Neutrogena’s T-Gel Daily Dandruff Shampoo (a 5 out of 10 – moderate hazard – from EWG’s cosmetic safety database), and PC Botanical Secrets Moisturizing Shampoo (Normal Hair), among others. Ecoholic describes a Swedish study (2011 update: the link I used to have to the study no longer works) that found “by that pouring 3ml of dandruff shampoo with 0.8 per cent zinc pyrithione in a 1,000-litre aquarium, waiting 24 hours, then adding fish half the fish died within four days. This despite the fact that the ingredient is said to degrade quickly in water.” Even nicer.

So, I haven’t found the answer yet. Ecoholic has a few suggestions including not using a shampoo with the skin irritants sodium laurel or laureth sulphate. I’m doing that for now but I’ll have to try a few of the others on her list as well and let you know how it goes… For now, I’m just cutting out the fish killers and carcinogens.


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