Applying and Pouring and Rinsing and Brushing with Chemicals

Blog #2 in the series Confessions of an Eco-Evader by Sue Carr

My friend Kelly recently introduced me to ewg.org, the website of the Environmental Working Group. This site provides more information than you could possibly fit into your head (or at least more than I could possibly fit into my head) about environmental topics ranging from government policies and cutting-edge scientific research to clean energy and climate change.

SueCarr-smNow, if you’re like me and the mere mention of such weighty issues as global warming and fracking makes your head spin, fear not; the EWG’s Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics will suck you in like a vortex for hours on end.

Stay with me here, I know what you’re thinking: Just because I don’t have in-depth conversations about the state of the world’s oceans doesn’t mean lip gloss is my main concern in life. I hear you. Don’t be fooled by the title. This guide covers far more than what we typically call “cosmetics.” It contains a searchable database of thousands of products, from deodorants to shampoos and shaving foams to toothpastes, where you can review ingredient safety ratings, retrieve health information about the products you use, and find shopping tips for purchasing safer products. I highly recommend that you check it out.

This site has engrossed me for literally tens of hours over the past several weeks. I’ve become borderline obsessed with it, in fact. I find it both enlightening and frightening to learn how many of the products I use daily fall into the danger zone of health ratings—even the products specifically targeted at kids, like the colorfully packaged, kid-oriented toothpaste and shampoo currently sitting in my kids’ bathroom.

While I’m trying to take this information with a grain of salt, realizing that neither my children nor I have suffered caustic burns or permanent disability from using techno-blue toothpaste or strawberry starburst shampoo, this website has helped me realize that I can do better. I think carefully about the dietary choices I make for my family, buying organic meats and dairy as much as my budget allows, making sure each meal includes some colorful fruits or vegetables, avoiding artificial ingredients whenever possible. And yet, here I am, allowing my children to pour chemicals into and onto themselves with no real concept of the potential consequences.

I’m no scientist and haven’t sat in a chemistry class since my daily nap times during my sophomore year of high school, so let me make it perfectly clear that I am not an expert on this topic. But it seems to me that applying and pouring and rinsing and brushing with chemicals of unknown consequence on a daily basis may negatively impact our health. It also may not. As I said, I’m no expert. But I think I’d rather stack the odds in my favor and seek out more natural ways to clean myself, and my kids, every day, and this site will help me do just that.

I encourage you to take a look at ewg.org, and then share your thoughts with us.

Sue Nelko Carr is a freelance writer and editor, and a full-time mother, trying to live a greener life in Pittsburgh, PA.