top of page
  • Writer's pictureWendy

Common Chemicals In Our Everyday Lives

Over the next while, I'm going to post an opinion piece on my research into any number of chemicals that we find in everyday products, used personally and around our homes. 


I'll be choosing 1 chemical to hi-lite each month.  Read my findings, do your own research, if your so inclined, and make your own conscious decision as to whether or not you think each chemical is safe enough for you and your family. 


This months chemical concoction is Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, aka Sodium Laureth Sulfate,  aka sodium monolauryl sulfate, sodium dodecyl sulfate, sodium monolauryl sulfate, sodium dodecane sulfate, lauryl alcohol, hydrogen sulfate - sodium salt, n-lauryl sulfate sodium and finally sulfuric acid monolauryl ester sodium ... Yikes! I've written about them in the past, however this is an updated and far more detailed and informative blog.


If you use commercially produced shampoo, toothpaste, dish soap, laundry detergent, degreasers, cleansers and even bubble baths, the likelihood that one version of these chemicals SLS - Sodium Laurel Sulphate and/or SLES - Sodium Laureth Sulphate is present.


Mainly derived from either Palm or Coconut oil, these chemicals are used as a foaming agent or degreaser inpersonal care products.


I often hear, "Hey, they're made from fruits, so  that makes them safe right?"  Well, not necessarily, so I'll let you decide.


Derived from petroleum or plant-based sources, sulfates create rich lather and help cleaning products as a surfactant to lift, dissolve, and rinse impurities away.


These ingredients lower the surface tension of water so oil, dirt, and grime can mix with it more easily. One side of the molecule attaches to oil while the other side attaches to water. Sulfates have been in use since the 1930s since these sulfur-containing mineral salts are cheap for companies to produce.


Sodium lauryl sulfate is also used as an ingredient in certain pesticide products to dehydrate and kill insects. It works effectively on ticks, bed bugs, lice, mites, and aphids. Sodium lauryl sulfate dissolves in water easily and can be sprayed right on the insect you wish to eradicate from your home.


Because it creates rich foam that’s easily rinsed away, it's common to find this surfactant in shampoo and other hair care products. But because it’s such a powerful cleanser, this ingredient can easily remove too much of the natural sebum on the scalp, causing flaking while making hair feel harsh and dry.



Sulfates are effective cleaning ingredients that remove dirt and oil from a wide variety of surfaces. But over the past few decades, consumers have begun questioning their safety – especially sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). So what’s the deal with the negative hype? Is this ingredient bad?


What Is SLS?


SLS is the best-known and most commonly-used sulfate. It’s inexpensive and can be derived from a number of sources including petroleum, coconut oil, and even palm oil. It’s an effective surfactant, a substance in detergents that combines with liquid to reduce surface tension, acting as wetting and foaming agents in cleaning products.


Where is SLS Used?


This surfactant can be found in the following cleaning, personal care, and cosmetic products:


Shampoo

Soap

Shaving Cream

Toothpaste

Laundry Detergent

Dish Soap

Carpet Shampoo

Surface Cleansers


Sad Fact: Certain food products also use this ingredient as a thickening agent.


How safe are these ingredients in regards to common health and skin concerns?


-Skin, Eye, Lung Irritation: Moderate risk

-Cancer: low risk

-Allergies & Immunotoxicity: Moderate risk

-Developmental and Reproductive Toxicity: low risk

-Use Restrictions: low risk


SLS vs SLES: Are they the Same?


In short, SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) are a gentler surfactant compared to SLS and are found to be less likely to irritate skin and eyes.


Two Different Chemical Formulas


Although they sound similar – and they’re often used in the same types of products – SLS and SLES are two separate surfactants with two different chemical formulas:


SLES = CH3(CH2)11(OCH2CH2)nOSO3Na,

SLS = CH3(CH2)11SO4Na.)


SLES is derived from SLS through ethoxylation, when ethylene oxide is introduced to make it less drying and more gentle than SLS. The problem: Ethoxylation can create trace amounts of 1,4- dioxane.


The FDA acknowledges that 1,4- dioxane is a possible carcinogen. In fact, since the 1980’s, the agency has monitored the risks of 1,4- dioxane and the use of it in certain consumer goods. If it finds its presence in cosmetics poses a health hazard, the FDA will take steps to regulate its use and notify the public accordingly.



Other Popular Sulfates


Sodium lauryl sulfate is just one member of the sulfate family. Other popular sulfates include:


-sodium laureth sulfate (e.g. SLES, sodium lauryl ether sulfate)

-ammonium laureth sulfate (ALS)

-sodium stearyl sulfate

-sodium lauryl sulfoacetate

-sodium coco sulfate


Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Safe?


For every report that claims that this ingredient is harmful, another one says the opposite. If you don’t know what to think, you’re not alone.


The World Health Organization (WHO), however, has detailed several warnings about SLS. It reports potential harm if swallowed, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded that, although “years of anti-SLS campaigns have led to consumer concerns and confusion regarding the safety of SLS,” sodium lauryl sulfate isn't a danger to human health – as long as it's formulated correctly.





Is SLS Safe for Skin?


The International Journal of Toxicology reported that SLS wasn't harmful as long as it:

-was used for short periods of time

-was thoroughly rinsed off of skin

-didn't exceed a concentration of 1%.


According to the NIH report (referenced above), sodium lauryl sulfate concentrations of more than 2% can cause skin irritation. But the concentration of SLS in household cleaning products can vary from 1% to 30%. In personal care products (like bubble baths and body washes), SLS concentrations can range even higher.


This surfactant in body wash and cleansers is effective at removing dirt and grease, but there’s a tradeoff. Dr. Julie Jackson, MD, FAAD says, “To remove impurities, SLS also strips away some of the skin’s natural moisturizing oils.”


At this time, more work is required to determine the effects of repeated, low-dose exposure. However, exploratory research indicates that exposure to a high concentration of SLS can cause skin barrier disruption (due to altered skin maturation).




Is SLS Safe for Hair?


Because it creates rich foam that’s easily rinsed away, it's common to find this surfactant in shampoo and other hair care products. But because it’s such a powerful cleanser, this ingredient can easily remove too much of the natural sebum on the scalp, causing flaking while making hair feel harsh and dry.



Is SLS Safe for the Environment?


SLS and Aquatic Life

Since this surfactant in its raw form is moderately toxic to aquatic life, the WHO warns that it shouldn't be allowed to enter the environment. Most dilutions of this ingredient aren’t necessarily toxic, but this depends on the marine species, water hardness, and water temperature.


That this ingredient enters the water stream from personal care products is a significantly diluted form that can be considered non-toxic (due to its low concentration). However, it has been suggested that chronic toxicity can also occur at low concentrations.



Biodegradability and Bioaccumulation


SLS is biodegradable and has low potential for bioaccumulation, but since it can still be detected in the environment, further monitoring is still being done.


What Are Sulfates?


Derived from petroleum or plant-based sources, sulfates create rich lather and help cleaning products as a surfactant to lift, dissolve, and rinse impurities away.


These ingredients lower the surface tension of water so oil, dirt, and grime can mix with it more easily. One side of the molecule attaches to oil while the other side attaches to water. Sulfates have been in use since the 1930s since these sulfur-containing mineral salts are cheap for companies to produce.



Commonly Found Sulfates


Sulfates can commonly be found in face wash, shampoo, body wash, and even toothpaste. They include:


Magnesium Sulfate

Copper Sulfate

Lead Sulfate

Gypsum

Sodium Sulfate

Iron Sulfate

Hydrogen Sulfate

Calcium Sulfate

Ammonium Laureth.

Ammonium Xylenesulfonate.

Ethyl PEG-15 Cocamine Sulfate































8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page