Consumer or detective? Part 1

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I’m both! I’m also exhausted and overwhelmed.

I spent hours yesterday, and more today, nearly 5 days hunched over my computer, Googling things like SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), SLES (sodium laureth sulfate), phenoxyethanol and dipalmitoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate (say that 5 times fast), whether they’re good, whether they’re bad, and who claims what about them. I’ve researched, edited, saved and previewed more times than I can count! I finally had to just hit ‘Publish’.

It takes serious investigative work to be a well-informed, environmentally-friendly shopper.

Fortunately, I have amazing tenacity to find answers when it concerns a subject close to my heart. Living green is very important to me, not just for my own health but for that of the environment as well. I long ago decided to avoid harmful ingredients like SLS and SLES. If they’re on the list, I don’t buy that product.

And that’s what I thought I was doing until I bought a bottle of “green” dish soap containing SLS. I read the label after I got home, duh! I slammed on the mental brakes and said to myself, “Wait a minute! I don’t buy stuff like this!”. It caught me off guard. Why did I have something with SLS in my hand?

I immediately called my sister and we both concluded we DON’T buy products unless they’re SLS free. . . . . . but upon further contemplation, perhaps that was just beauty products and maybe we hadn’t expanded into cleaning products. I’m second-guessing myself and I’m determined to figure out what’s going on.

I abandoned my usual short attention span. I neglected to eat. I let my dish water go cold. I slept less. I was oblivious to the mass of fruit flies making their home on a lemon wedge. I developed aches and pains (and a phantom spider on my right elbow!) from sitting, and stretching across my table to reach my laptop, for so many hours on end. I annoyed my sister with phone calls 🙂

And I’m still not done! I’ll most likely have 2 or 3 additional posts related to this one. Maybe more! Hence the Part 1.

What began as a small, “I’ll-look-into-it” matter, quickly morphed into a complex, multi-faceted monster. Green products, the ones we trust and use, might not be so green after all. Yes, they’re certainly green-er than conventional choices but still. . . . I want 100%. Or as close as absolutely possible. It’s now occurring to me there is no true green.

I scrutinized SLS and SLES (again). I found more “against” articles than I could “for”. Does that mean they’re okay or not? How can so many people be so wrong? How could David Suzuki be wrong? He can’t be. I’m more inclined to go with the majority.

SLS is a foaming agent commonly found in things like dish soap, toilet bowl cleaners, shampoos, bubble baths, mouth wash and facial cleansers. And if that was all you ever needed to know, the world would be fine.

But SLS is so much more!

It’s also a skin, eye and respiratory tract irritant.


It’s toxic to aquatic organisms (anything living in the water) and has the potential for accumulating in the bodies of fish.


And we eat those fish.


SLS is a penetration enhancer which means it helps other chemicals get into our bodies. The manufacturing process of SLS can cause it to be contaminated with carcinogens.

SLS is made less irritating by adding ethylene oxide. Sounds promising? It’s not. To make it less irritating, they also make it cancer causing!

Ethylene oxide (EtO) is a very hazardous substance. MCAW143_9At room temperature it’s a flammable, carcinogenic, mutagenic, irritating and anaesthetic gas with a deceptively pleasant aroma. It’s present in the production of antifreeze, adhesives, detergents, textiles, polyurethane foam, solvents and pharmaceuticals. Lesser amounts are found in sterilants for spices and cosmetics, fumigants, and in hospitals during the sterilization of surgical equipment.

People who work with EtO must take many precautions.

I don’t know about you but this isn’t something I want anywhere near, never mind IN, any product I use! I don’t care how minimal.

The combined result of SLS and ethylene dioxide, SLES, is just as bad because it can be contaminated with 1,4 – dioxane (one of the main, cancer causing, components of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam War).

download (12)Double don’t want it!

It’s harder these days to decide upon which products to use and which ones to avoid. Companies are getting crafty, sneaky even. I’ve learned what the term ‘greenwashing’ means. In a nutshell, it’s when a company makes their product sound and look great when it actually contains harmful ingredients. The manufacturing of a certain “acceptable” ingredient can be detrimental to the environment or it can render a once good ingredient bad. There’s a lot to know!

Healthy living should not be so complicated!

Companies are counting on blind faith. Or chosen ignorance. I have neither, although I did demonstrate it. I want to know what I’m buying! I’m beginning to re-examine ALL of my current cleaning and personal products.

images (38)Thankfully, I don’t have as many as most people do. Perfume, nail polish, hair dye, body lotion, candles, air fresheners, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, lipstick, furniture polish; none of these are in my home.

But let’s get back to what precipitated this journey.

A seemingly eco-friendly bottle of dish soap, little fishy on the front, the words non-toxic there too, it was in the Natural and Organic aisle of my local grocery store, it was from a company that cares about the environment . . . . . . . I assumed it was okay.


Until I turned the bottle over and read the ingredients. I was puzzled by what this company had to say about using SLS and SLES.

There has been information circulating the internet about the safety of these ingredients, but we have found it to be unfounded“.

Found it to be unfounded?? What a ridiculous phrase when they offer nothing to substantiate such a claim. I scoured every inch of their website, believe me, I did, looking for any supporting data. Zero success. I also discovered they have more than one website. Apparently, I scoured the UK version (I think! It’s confusing). I also found this statement on their US site.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about SLS but it’s an ingredient we feel confident using“.

I couldn’t find any supporting data on their site either! Me, myself and I could all say we adore SLS and believe in it, but that sure doesn’t make it safe for humans or the environment. In fact, Ecover admits SLS has a “low aquatic toxicity”. I don’t understand how they can say “non-toxic” out one side of their mouth and “low toxicity” out of the other.

I’ve repeatedly looked at their full list of ingredients, for all of their products, since discovering they use SLS and SLES and they use 11 other ingredients (synthetic or plant-based, synthetic blend) I’m uncertain about. I’m currently doing the research and I will get to the bottom of it.

I’m also drafting an e-mail to send to Ecover for answers. I’m very curious to see what they have to say and will be surprised if they can validate the presence of SLS and SLES in their “non-toxic, safe for people and the environment” products. Actually, I don’t care. I’m going to opt out of buying Ecover products. There are other companies I’m looking into that interest me more.

Earth Friendly Products, Seventh Generation and Nature Clean are now under my microscope.

I’m liking Seventh Generation because they (appear to) care about the orangutans and they’re very open about it on their site. But they also use SLS and defend it by claiming “anti-sulfate campaigns”. I’ve just received a reply e-mail from them that I have yet to review. I understand scaremongering is real but does it truly apply to SLS? Erring on the side of caution makes more sense to me. For now. We’ll see if that changes.

Earth Friendly Products don’t have SLS but they have SCS (sodium coco sulfate), I’m looking into that, many people claim it’s still a sulfate and pretty much the same as SLS. And they say nothing about the orangutans on their site.

Nature Clean, I’ve only scratched the surface. They appear good. . . . but further research will tell for sure. They don’t mention the orangutans either. (Yes, I care about the orangutans).

One thing leads to another. . . . . . .

Find out more when Part 2 is written and published, it may take me a while. I can’t spend another 4+ days (long days) doing this! I need to pace myself. And eat. And sleep. 🙂 And work.

In the meantime, have a look-see through some of the articles I found. There are, of course, many, many more “floating around out there”!

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