Friday, June 20, 2014

New features coming to Cosme-Haul Plus Another Reason to Check Cosmetics Ingredients (Leukemia Link?)

Hello Cosme-Haulers,

When I last posted in February, I expected to be back within the week.

To paraphrase John Lennon and others, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” When I last posted, my mom was in the middle of a battle with Leukemia. It was part of why I posted this last November.

Less of my focus was available to distribute, and something had to give.

I’m afraid to jinx it, but for now, after months of aggressive chemo, my mom’s doing great. It takes three consecutive months of Leukemia-free tests to officially say “Leukemia free,” and she’s had two. Her cancer doc is baffled by her improvement but is cautiously pleased.

Her cancer doc is a researcher who agrees with leading theories of the causes of her type of Leukemia*. More studies are needed, but the factors they believe contribute to her type of Leukemia are, in order: 1.being around agricultural pesticides or industrial chemicals such as Benzene. 2.  petroleum-based pesticides. 3. smoking and 4.miscellaneous petrochemicals.

The cell damage that leads to her type of Leukemia is thought to be cumulative—meaning, it’s not just one thing, but a series of things adding up over time. The damage builds, and then suddenly your body manufactures deformed cells that eventually take over.

In my mom’s case, she was a smoker until 1999, but surprisingly, smoking isn’t thought to be the main cause of her type of Leukemia and is thought to cause only a small increase of it.** Hers is a Leukemia commonly associated with agricultural workers and factory workers. She's neither. But she did grow up on a non-agricultural farm, with her family’s water supplied by a well, in an area surrounded by agricultural farms that used petroleum-based pesticides for decades.

Throw in smoking and the petrochemicals in cleaning products and beauty products we use every day, and over time, that’s quite a chemical cocktail.

My mom’s Leukemia highlights how important it is to think about chemicals we’re surrounded by, including in our bath and beauty products. As a person with multiple chemical sensitivities, I’m allergic to many of the ingredients in traditional products. My mom’s Leukemia makes me even more aware of ingredients.

That doesn’t mean I think minimally-processed, natural cosmetics are perfect: I’m also allergic to certain ingredients used in natural cosmetics. There’s also the fact that some “natural” products are more natural than others, and that some brands exaggerate their claims due to lax labeling requirements. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say there are some old favorites I haven’t successfully substituted.

I keep trying, though, and will continue to share the results of my trial and error on Cosme-Haul.

For some readers, price and availability are huge considerations. I’ve been there--as a teenager, I lived in a small town that had only one place to shop for cosmetics, and it wasn’t Sephora! (And there were times when my budget wouldn't have allowed Sephora had there been one.) So, no worries--you’ll continue to see reviews of mass-market brands on Cosme-Haul.

It is important to know what’s in those products, though. It's also important to apply pressure to companies to make less-toxic products widely available at affordable prices. We all can do that regardless of budget, as long as we have an internet connection and access to good websites. Until her cancer doc's first question was whether she'd lived on a farm, my mom was skeptical about how much petrochemicals really affect us. Now she takes an active role in researching all kinds of ingredients and has given me the OK to share her story with you.

That’s why, for our readers’ convenience, starting with my next post you’ll see links for researching ingredients, products, and the beauty product companies who makethem. Eventually these links will appear at the end of every Cosme-Haul product review,  but it will take a little while to get them into our older reviews. I appreciate your patience while we make this happen.

One last thing…I know there will be someone eager to spout that old line, “arsenic is a natural substance too.” If that’s you, spare me your email and give our readers credit for their intelligence, please. No one’s talking about putting arsenic on our faces or using bacteria-laden products. We’re talking about avoiding toxic substances where viable alternatives exist. And before you say it, yes, I’m aware chemicals helped my mom get better.

However, some of us are also aware the line about “arsenic is a natural substance” is a commonly-used talking point by chemical and petroleum companies…companies who happen to have a huge interest in selling raw ingredients to cosmetics manufacturers.

My question is: at what cost to the people who manufacture the cosmetics that contain those ingredients, and to the consumers who use them?


*Some studies exist to support this. As with many cancers, wider studies are needed to prove it.

**I know I need to tell you  the name of the Leukemia she has, but Mom wasn't home when I called her to verify it. (
Yep, she's feeling better!) There are so many medical terms rolling around in my head, I can't keep them straight anymore and am better off not guessing. I'll edit it in ASAP.  :-)

Edited to add: The type of Leukemia Mom's been dealing with is Acute Myeloidd Leukemia, aka AML. When I went to the Leukemia Wikipedia page today to check the spelling, I noticed that someone had edited out most references to petrochemicals being a possible cause and softened the wording about chemcials since the last time I read it. Maybe a rep from a chemical company perhaps?