One of the first articles I wrote in November 2007 was inspired by a network news and publications article titled “Is Cancer in Your Tub?” What caught my attention were two glycol ether solvents used in everyday household, food and hygiene products. Also a key ingredient used in anti-freeze. Well I knew I didn’t want to drink or eat anti-freeze, so this caught my eye.
The thing I didn’t put into perspective back then was how the consumer created a convenience demand in the marketplace. A choice that continues to make the populous sick and cause disease. And the best way to bring “you” the reader up to speed is to start from the beginning… 8 years ago.
What exactly are these two solvents and why would an anti-freeze ingredient be in our home cleaners, hygiene and food products? “Glycol ethers are a group of solvents based on alkyl ethers of ethylene glycol or Propylene Glycol (PG) commonly used in paints and cleaners. These solvents typically have a higher boiling point, together with the favorable solvent properties of lower-molecular weight ethers and alcohols [Wikipedia 2016].”
“Ethylene glycol are still used in anti-freeze preparation, household, automotive cleaners, laundry cleaners, etc. Propylene glycol is also used in many of the same consumer products, such as home cleaners, hair, cosmetics, creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, pet foods, deodorants, etc. (GoodGuide 2011).” The list of products containing both glycol ethers is long.
Propylene glycol is also used as a food stabilizer in many processed foods as I’m now more familiar. And the FDA stands by their PG approval-to-market SAFE for human consumption like tens of thousands of other consumer chemicals. “The Food and Drug Administration has classified Propylene Glycol as “generally recognized as safe,” which means that it is acceptable for use in flavorings, drugs, and cosmetics, and as a direct food additive. According to the World Health Organization, the acceptable dietary intake of propylene glycol is 25 mg of propylene glycol for every kilogram (kg) of body weight (ATSDR 2015).”
The unique qualities of PG is it “provides unique inherent properties with regard to holding/attracting both water- and oil-based substances. In food, it is used to retain food color pigments and provide for homogeneous distribution within the mixture.”
It is also used as a “Solvent and carrier for flavor and color in food and beverage manufacturing processes, for drinks, biscuits, cakes, sweets. ‘Thickener, clarifier and stabilizer in food and beverage such as beer, salad dressings or baking mixtures (PO/PG 2016).”
PG is also used as the main liquid component of e-cigarettes. For example, “PG exposure per puff of the Ruyan® e-cigarette. The cartridge of the Ruyan® e-cigarette contains approximately 1g [or 1000mg’s] of PG, of which 0.9 g is extractable from the pad. The concentration of PG in the mouth from one drag of the Ruyan® e-cigarette (900 mg per cartridge, 300 puffs = 3mg) is 3 mg per mouthful.”
It should also be noted within the report there is an “Inhalational Minimal Risk Levels (MRLs)” citation. “No MRLs for acute- or chronic-duration inhalation exposure to propylene glycol were derived because data are insufficient.” And this report also highlights “Carcinogenicity. Stating ‘There is no evidence that PG is a carcinogen.”
But a “SAFE use” contradiction is also apparent within the same report. “MRLs of acute- or chronic duration inhalation… data are insufficient (Laugesen 2008).” Or to better clarify and understand the meaning of this statement, ‘absent of long-term risk data on health’ OR ‘No Evidence for lack of long term data.’
To better relate to the FDA approval process, think about it this way.
Most FDA approvals are based on animal studies of relatively short duration. Whereas the data is extrapolated to make relative to human metabolism, weight, environment, habits, dosage, frequency etc. One last point to make, we are humans, not rodents. So one must ask… how relevant are these studies to human DNA and disease? And how much pressure is there to release and approve a new product to market? And once released don’t industries have something to loose should an approved SAFE chemical be recalled from the marketplace? The answers to these questions are economically and politically by design and connected. The short of it is, It’s all about special interest power, control and money!
To date, I was curious to see if GP was removed, banned or listed as a health risk on any consumer product. Of course I wasn’t surprised to find anything of the kind. However glycol ethers may be the least of consumer product toxin worries.
Prior to reading that November 2007 publication, consumer safety advocates warned the world years earlier of carcinogenic household items. For instance, On February 23 a “1998 CBS’s morning talk show, ‘This Morning’ reported the findings of a study from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program that sent shock waves throughout the cosmetics and personal care products industries.”
Fast forward… the moment of truth, our everyday household items have carcinogenic toxins as exposed by various laboratory controlled studies. They “confirm serious health issues with long term use of our FDA Qualified “SAFE” products! (Young 2011).” [Shocker? Not at all. Simply look at the billions of dollars industries spend and profits made. Changing profitable industry culture course is an act of God.]
During 2007 I also procured brochures from author Debra Lynn Dadd, “Please Protect Yourself from Household Toxics.” I handed them out to clients for consumer safety information and audit of household products.
I recommended they audit and remove the toxic products and go green. And advised them to keep diaries of certain medical symptoms which had abated after removal of certain toxic products after reading Dadd‘s article.
She stated, “While certain people may be more sensitive than others, and some chemical(s) may bring on reactions only after many years of repeated exposure, I discovered household cleaning and bathing chemicals may bring on reactions only after many years of repeated exposure.”
Many of the home use product(s) that increased certain health risks listed in the brochure were cancer, birth defects, genetic changes, heart disease. Literally any symptom imaginable both physical and psychological could be linked to a common household product.
“Scientist admit these toxic chemicals can lodge in our endocrine system contributing to thyroid problems, diabetes, weight gain, and infertility. At greatest risk are fetuses, children, the elderly, and those who are already ill, but these chemicals are threatening the health of everyone, every day (Barry 2013).”
I also cited an AARP Bulletin from May 2008, Vol.49 No. 4, titled “Hazards at Home,” within that original 2007 article by Reed Karaim. Making similar statements as Debra Lynn Dadd. Karaim followed in suit, “older people are more likely to have conditions – such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes.” Adding to the collective demographic concern “Older people are more like infants and children in their ability to fend off toxic assaults says Sandra Steingraber, the author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment.”
Within the same Bulletin a statement of stern warning is made over the use of home “Cleaners – Chemicals to avoid in cleaners, says McRandle (Paul McRandle, Deputy Editor at the National Geographic Green Guide), run from ammonia, which is known to trigger asthma, elements in chlorine bleach, which is a lung irritant and will kill you if you swallow it, to things like glycol ethers, which are used to dissolve grime and dirt, and can cause nerve damage (Karaim 2008).”
PG is still listed safe by the FDA. However, I’ve no doubt science will prove the long-term PG health risk effects through e-cig smoker data. By studying habits of consumption, dose, toxicity and patients presenting similar “cause and effect” symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and disease connections, and discovery commonalities will occur over time.
The most disheartening and overwhelming reality is there are more chemicals used in foods and household products than ever before. Including expanded use of glycol ethers in foods. Also “Of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in the United States, most haven’t been adequately tested for their effects on human health (NRDC 2016).”
It appears most likely disease is linked to a cocktail of multiple consumer products, not just one. “Chemicals found in household products may be causing significant increases in cancers, diabetes, obesity and falling fertility, the European Environment Agency has warned. ‘In recent decades, there has been a significant growth in many human diseases and disorders including breast and prostate cancer, male infertility and diabetes. ‘Many scientists think that this growth is connected to the ‘rising levels of exposure’ to mixtures of some chemicals in widespread use (Smith 2012).”
“Some of the most pervasive chemicals are used in plastic products, and are known as “endocrine disruptors.” Convenience food products are bagged, bottled and plastic lined canned containers.
“On February 19, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a report co-produced with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), titled: State of the Science of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals.” Concern over the increase of chemical use in convenience foods, household and personal use products.
My takeaway and interpretation of past and current trends, scientific studies and consumer health risk and industrial data; these chemicals are destroying or mutating DNA within cellular structures of endocrine [hormone] and neurological function leading to serious and chronic disease.
“The report suggests a ban of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may be needed to protect the health of future generations. ‘Health risks include: Non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention-deficit hyperactivity in children, thyroid cancer (Mercola 2013).”
“In some ways, our ancestors had it easy. Because they didn’t have chemically treated food and chemically enhanced kitchenware, their diets and cooking practices exposed them to fewer toxic hazards (Breast Cancer Fund 2016).”
Unfortunately Big-Ag, food processors and manufactures see a huge demand for convenience products with chemicals that make our foods smell, and taste and look more appetizing with long storage life. Including cheap and toxic convenient household and hygiene products. We’re addicted to all of them. As long as consumer convenience demand and profits are high and long term health risk is not connected to an FDA approved SAFE chemical… the toxic environmental uptake and increase of insidious disease won’t be in decline anytime soon.
Nothing has changed much after years of health risk warnings from consumer safety advocates, epidemiologists and independent lab studies, etc. Chemicals used in products are on the rise and so is disease.
The big winners are Chemical, Pharmaceutical, Big-Ag and Health Care industries. To include a plethora of consumer product and processor manufactures. Why do I list Health care services and Big-Pharm industries?
Treating acute and chronic disease is big business. Cures are not.
“If it’s not about the money, what is it?” I’d say it’s 2-fold. Customers need and want lower cost and convenience products. And industries are more than happy to continue providing profitable and cheap product that meet demand.
Until consumer demand changes to provide healthier products for you and your family, there are things you can do to reduce household and environmental toxins.
What can you do to protect your family?
1 Don’t give plastic toys to small children unless marked BPA or Phthalates free. “On October 15, 2007, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law AB 1108 (also known as the California Toxic Toys Bill), making California the first state in the country to ban the use of phthalates from children’s products (West 2016).”
2 Eat less processed and convenience foods and consume more whole foods.
3 Purchase organic ‘green’ home cleaners, cosmetics and personal hygiene products.
4 Wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) e.g. gloves, mask, boots, hoodie, pants, long sleeve shirts, apron when using non-green cleaning products.
5 Read food, home cleaning products and hygiene labels – if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it’s most likely a chemical preservative, additive, stabilizer, dye, solvent, etc., of varying toxic quality. Go Green and Organic as often as possible and available.
6 Don’t consume the same drinks and foods every day, especially convenience and fast foods.
7 Consume plenty of fruits, vegetable and water.
8. Infrequently purchase water, juice, sodas and foods stored in plastics and cans. Glass is the best container to store foods and drinks.
9 Check dates of frozen foods and use within a 30 day window.
10 Vent and circulate fresh outdoor air throughout the home by leaving windows cracked ¼” open. Clean HVAC systems and ductwork per manufacturer recommendation.
11 Become a conscientious consumer safety advocate and practitioner and family educator of green/natural products.
12 Become a voice and vote. Use your 1st Amendment rights to petition government and special interests to win voter-consumer choice. Be an advocate, or support to ban or remove certain toxic ingredients from consumer goods and services. Or call for label laws that inform shoppers ingredients known to cause cancer and other chronic disease.
If consumers don’t demand the marketplace change; then realize cost and convenience has greater value to a majority populace than long term health risk. With this reality and without consumer and health risk prevention education in our K-12 schools, it should be no surprise new generations don’t value healthy lifestyle. While disease and health care costs continue to rise.
We have no one to blame but ourselves.
Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2016 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your free monthly newsletter.
ATSDR. “Public Health Statement for Propylene Glycol.” ATSDR. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 20 May 2016.
Barry, R. M. “Please…Protect Yourself from Household Toxics Pamphlet by Debra Lynn Dadd.” Melaleuca Cleaning Products. RM Barry Publications, 2005-13. Web. 20 May 2016.
Breast Cancer Fund. “Chemicals in Food.” Breast Cancer Fund. Breast Cancer Fund, n.d. Web. 20 May 2016.
GoodGuide. “What Kinds of Consumer Products May Contain This Chemical?” ETHYLENE GLYCOL — Consumer Products. GoodGuide, 2011. Web. 20 May 2016.
Karaim, Reed. “Hazards at Home.” AARP Bulletin Today. AARP, May 2008. Web. 20 May 2016.
Laugesen, Murray. Safety Report on the Ruyan® E-cigarette Cartridge and Inhaled Aerosol. Rep. Christchurch, New Zealand: Health New Zealand, 2008. Print.
Mercola, Dr. Joseph. “Common Household Chemicals Linked to Human Disease.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 8 July 2013. Web. 20 May 2016.
NRDC. “Health, Toxic Chemicals.” NRDC. Natural Resources Defense Council, 2016. Web. 20 May 2016.
PO/PG. “Food, Taste, Fun and Convenience.” – Propylene Glycol. PO/PG Sector Group of Cefic, Brussels, n.d. Web. 20 May 2016.
Smith, Graham. “Chemicals in Household Items Are ‘causing Huge Increase in Cancer, Obesity and Falling Fertility'” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 11 May 2012. Web. 20 May 2016.
West, Larry. “Toxic Toys: Chemicals in Toys Endanger Children.” About.com News & Issues. About.com, n.d. Web. 20 May 2016.
Young, Dr. “Is Cancer in Your Tub.” Is Cancer in Your Tub. Dr. Young, 19 Jan. 2011. Web. 20 May 2016.