Your Toxic Shower: Hidden Dangers in Shampoo

shower Reaching for the shampoo bottle, pouring a small amount in your hand, and then washing your hair with it is something many of us do without bothering to find out what ingredients are contained in that shampoo. However, the average shampoo contains a number of toxic chemicals.

Take the chemicals D4 and D5. Most shampoos contain them. In fact, a survey by the Environmental Working Group of 41,000 personal care products, including shampoos, found D4 and D5 in one out of every seven. Earlier this year the Canadian government announced it will set safe exposure levels for D4 and D5, with the possibility of banning the chemicals. The Canadian government is concerned with studies on D4 and D5's effects on wildlife.

"[The] move by Canada is not only important for the health of its citizens, it helps underscore the need for real reforms within the EPA's failed programs to regulate toxins in the U.S.," said Jane Houlihan of the Environmental Working Group. "Congress and President Obama need to overhaul broken toxics laws, and establish a policy that forces the chemical companies to first prove their products are safe before being used."

D4 and D5 are not the only toxic chemicals found in shampoos. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, non-profit coalition of health and environmental groups, released a research report on the toxic chemicals found in baby shampoos and baby bath products, including formaldehyde and 1.4-dioxane. Both formaldehyde and 1.4-dioxane are known carcinogens.

Do you enjoy like a shampoo that "foams"? The foam in shampoos comes from sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Chemically SLS and SLES are known as surfactants. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, both SLS and SLES are irritating to the skin, and SLES cannot be metabolized by the liver.

In 1983, the Journal of The American College of Toxicology published a report which showed that concentrations of just 0.5 percent of SLS or SLES can irritate the skin, and concentrations of 10 to 30 percent cause severe irritation and skin corrosion.

Toxic chemicals in personal care products are seeping into the water supply, according to a British study in 2007. The list included phthalates, which are commonly used in shampoos. Phthalates build up in animals, and have been linked to reproductive problems in wildlife.

Jeff Hardy from the Royal Society of Chemistry said, "While many people might not be interested in what happens to their nice-smelling shower gel after it has disappeared down the drain, chemists and employees of the water industry most certainly are."

Researchers at National Institutes of Health conducted experiments with the brain cells of rats, and the research showed that contact with methylisothiazoline (MIT) causes neurological damage. MIT is found in many shampoos. Researchers were particularly concerned that pregnant women exposed to MIT could be putting their fetus at risk for abnormal brain development.

What shampoos are safe to use? The website listed companies that made shampoos from "organic herbal extracts." The list includes: Avalon OrganicsAubrey OrganicsDessert Essence OrganicsJason Natural Products and Simply Organic. Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap can be used as shampoo, a shaving gel, and body cleanser. An added bonus is that a number of the ingredients used in Dr. Bronner's products are fair trade certified.

Other good stuff on Celsias:
Body Burdens and the Kid Safe Chemical Act

The Greenpeace Guide to Cleaner Electronics

PSSSST!  Follow Celsias on Twitter: Celsiastweets


If you see any unhelpful comments, please let us know immediately.

Taylor (anonymous)

I really enjoyed the article posted regarding harmful ingredients in personal care products. It was very informative, and I believe you are absolutely correct about the negative impact that these chemicals can have on our bodies. I have discovered several amazing reports to validate your position, and I think you would find the information fascinating. I would love to discuss this further with you. Please email me at your earliest convenience. One report in particular is very serious in nature and was documented on CNN. I’ll send you a link.

Written in June 2009

Gina-Marie Cheeseman (anonymous)

Taylor, I would love to see the reports. You can email me via my website at

Written in June 2009

rrrr (anonymous)


Written in November 2011

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  • Posted on May 14, 2009. Listed in:

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