On February 23, 1998 CBS's morning talk show, "This Morning" reported the findings of a study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Toxicology Program that sent shockwaves throughout the cosmetics and personal care prodocts industries.

Diethanolamine (or DEA for short), when applied to the skin, resulted in clear evidence of carcinogenic (causing or contributing to cancer) activity. "Diethanolamine (DEA) was selected for evaluation because its large-scale production and pattern of use indicate potential for widespread human exposure," this from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Toxicology Program - NTP TR 478. This 2 year study concluded in late 1997.


DEA is an ingredient formulated into soaps, detergents and surfactants and is found in over 600 home and personal care products. These products include shampoos, conditioners, bubble baths, lotions, cosmetics, soaps, laundry and dishwashing detergents. It's just one of an estimated 125 ingredients formulated into our home and personal care products suspected of carcinogenic activity (causing or contributing to cancer); or, of being potentially dangerous or hazardous to our health.


Hmmm? An ingredient used for decades in products that we expose ourselves to day after day, many times for hour after hour (cosmetics and lotions), and just now we find out it contributes to cancer?

This is nothing new. After decades of smoking tobacco, studies proving that tobacco causes cancer were published in the 70s; yet cigarettes are still sold and people still smoke. In 1938, when the FDA published guidelines regarding suitable levels of ingredients in products for human use, little was known about long term exposure. Quite possibly the absorption of these toxins through the skin was not even considered. Substances believed safe for human use and now being proven otherwise; should not be surprising.

DEA, a known toxin in industrial applications, but believed safe for personal care products in smaller amounts some time ago, has now been proven to cause cancer when applied to the skin of rats. As expected, the cosmetic industry response is something like "has not been proven... in humans" or "our products are formulated within strict FDA guidelines."

Dr. Samuel Epstein has quite a different response! He is author of "The Safe Shoppers Bible", founder of the American Coalition to Prevent Cancer, and is considered the worlds leading authority on toxicology. He has issued a stern warning regarding the use of cocamide DEA or lauramide DEA. Many products contain DEA and other suspect chemical compounds and don't have warnings; even though many product formulations contain ingredients (or their contaminants) that cause or lead to carcinogenic (cancer causing) activity.

As with DEA, other ingredients are going to be tested. Many years will pass. Cancer rates and other illnesses will continue to soar. Debate and legislation will progress at a snails pace. But the health consequences associated with continued use will continue regardless.

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