Category Archives: Chemical Additives

Artificial Colorants, Preservatives

Why Supplements Can Make You Sick

pills_dollarphotoclub_65086147_smallerIn 2011 I reported on dietary supplement safety and warned that supplements are not risk-free. Today, based on the cease-and-desist letters sent to major retailers by the New York attorney general, there’s even more evidence that you should be wary of supplements on store shelves.

According to the FDA, makers of the following are not required to show their products are safe or effective before they go on the market:

  • Herbs or other botanicals
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Amino acids
  • Other raw ingredients

That’s because over 20 years ago, President Clinton signed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Under this law, supplements do NOT need FDA approval before they’re sold. This lack of oversight has caused serious illnesses and irreversible health effects.

Per a Congressional investigation in 2010, dietary supplements were found to contain the following:

  • Heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic)
  • Pesticides
  • Filth and bacteria
  • Prescription drugs
  • Super/subpotent vitamins and minerals
  • Toxic compounds

Phony Herbal Supplements Sold by Major Retailers   

Continue reading

Frankenfood: Eating GMO Foods

GMO greenhouseGMO stands for genetically modified organisms which are specifically, genetically modified (GM) or ‘biotech’ crops, used to produce genetically modified foods. These GM plants are created in a laboratory by altering their genetic material (DNA). Scientists can introduce various modifications into the genes of crops, dairy products and animals.

So why and how do GMOs get into your food? Are they safe to eat? Here are some tips to avoid them if you choose to keep them off your plate.

How Crops Are Modified

Genetic modification (GM) is usually accomplished by adding one or more genes to a plant’s genome using genetic engineering techniques. GMO foods are generated using various methods to transfer foreign cells into animals and plants, such as: 1) Gene guns (particle guns) which inject cells with genetic information or 2) Bacterial carriers (a benign bacterial or viral infection).

Why Foods or Food Crops are Genetically Modified

Foods are modified to:   Continue reading

Lifesaving Tips for Fashionable Flying

The chance of you being in an airline accident may be slim, but here are some things to consider before you board your next flight.

Get in Shape

This is not so much a question of looking good, but in an emergency evacuation, you will need considerable strength, agility and balance to save your life. Remember, if the cabin fills with smoke, you’ll need to be able to get down on the floor and crawl to get to an exit. This can be a problem if you’re not very flexible and can’t move quickly.

Pay Attention to How You Dress

Mother and child on airplaneWhat you (and your children) wear matters when flying. Keep a copy of these tips in your suitcase as a reminder when preparing for your next trip.

  • Don’t  wear synthetics, such as polyester, nylon, rayon or poly-cotton blends. Even though you may be far enough from the fire to avoid serious injury, the heat alone will melt your synthetic clothing and adhere to your bare skin. Melted fabric that sticks to flesh can result in a critical burn and infection. However, at the same distance away from the heat, a cotton jacket or pair of pants won’t begin to char or catch fire. The bottom line is, natural fibers are safer, plastic is dangerous.
  • Wear natural fibers, such as cotton, pure wool, silk, or leather. Cotton is flammable, but in a truly massive and intense fire, whether your clothes are flammable or not won’t matter much unfortunately. NOTE: Some cotton shirts are sewn with poly/cotton thread (an ignition source), so you are still vulnerable.   Continue reading

Antibacterial Agent Can Impair Heart Muscle

America has been obsessed with germs and antibacterial products have flooded the marketplace. Triclosan, introduced in the 1970’s, has become a popular antibacterial agent in consumer products.

Studies have raised the possibility that the overuse of triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics, but new studies now attribute it to weakening cardiac and skeletal muscle contractility — a problem that can affect people with heart disease and heart failure.

Triclosan Use  Due to the abundant use of triclosan in personal care products, triclosan levels in urine, blood and breast milk are on the rise. It’s used in products, such as:   Continue reading

Unplug the Ad and Read the Label

The manufacturer of Nutella® was sued in a class action lawsuit and agreed to pay $3.5 million over false advertising. As a result, they must change their marketing statements and clean their website and television commercials of any misleading nutritional and health claims.

Companies highlight the positives in their products, if any, and not the negatives.  That’s what they do. Therefore, parents have to be their own vigilant consumer watchdogs.

Companies position themselves in the marketplace and appeal to the buyers’ emotions. Nutella was attempting to find a position somewhere between peanut butter and jelly. They targeted parents looking for new breakfast/snack alternatives. Advertising is a competitive multimillion-dollar business and deceptive or “clever” advertising exists in every industry.

“Safe” Until Proven Toxic

Consider cosmetic ads and commercials, for example. Cosmetic companies try to position their products as the champions of women’s self-esteem, hope, and youth. But neither their products nor their ingredients are approved or tested for safety and effectiveness before they go on the market. How are these seductive ads with ‘misleading’ claims any more false than Nutella’s?   Continue reading

Healthy Homekeeping (Dirty Little Secrets)

Healthy living begins at home. Think of your house like a second skin. Whatever you rub, pour, sprinkle, or spray on in order to clean it can end up in your body. Here are some tips to keep your home (and you) healthy.

Take off your shoes and keep germs from walking into your house. The Japanese were way ahead of Westerners with this custom. Along with dirt and grime, your shoes can track in fecal bacteria originating in restrooms or from the outdoors (think pet poop) and can harbor various other types of bacteria that can cause serious infections.

In Japan, it’s also customary to wear special “toilet slippers” that are only worn in the bathroom.

Treat your clothes like your skin. If you wouldn’t wash your body with it, then don’t clean your clothes in it. Avoid toxic chemicals and animal fats. Always wash new clothes before wearing them. New fabric finishes contain formaldehyde, fragranced starches and insecticides. Soak them in one cup or more of baking soda before washing them to neutralize these potentially allergenic chemicals.   Continue reading

Supplement Safety – Part 2 | The Men’s Health Minute

Dietary supplements are popular, but you can’t assume they’re safe and effective because they’re on store shelves.

Supplement Safety – Part 1 | The Men’s Health Minute

Nutritional supplements are intended to provide nutrients that you may be missing from your diet. Here’s why you need to be a savvy consumer.

The Dark Side of Sunscreen | The Health Reporter Minute

[TV segment #0013H

The long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen are backed by solid scientific research, but there’s also evidence that a common compound in sunscreen may cause skin damage.

Get the Disorder in Order with the Right Foods (ADHD)

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a problem with inattentiveness, overactivity, and/or impulsivity. The number of children diagnosed with ADHD has risen  significantly over the years affecting 3-5% of school-age children. This increase may be due in part to schools testing school children for the disorder whereas years ago they may have just been labeled as “disorderly”. The surge in ADHD cases is also linked to the greater consumption of refined foods and unhealthy fats.  Here are some tips to nourish your child to develop a healthy brain and body.   Continue reading

BPA-coated Receipts

Cash register receipts may be coated with BPA.

It’s getting to be that time again…April 15th is just two months away!  If you’re  busy gathering up a year’s worth of your receipts, you might want to consider using some gloves during the process.

A study by the Environmental Working Group revealed that BPA (bisphenol-A) is not just showing up in plastic bottles and food cans, but in many cash register receipts printed on BPA-coated thermal paper.  BPA is a synthetic estrogen with strong evidence that it causes reproductive abnormalities, gene alterations and cancer.  According to the EWG, the amount of BPA is 250 to 1,000 times higher on one of these receipts than the amount in a typical food can.   Continue reading

How to Stay Healthy and Hydrated

[TV segment #0003   Producer: Karen Owoc


With so many beverages to choose from to stay hydrated, check out some of the good and the not-so-good choices.

Allergic Reactions to Wet Wipes

Methylchloroisothiazolinone (or MCI), a common preservative used in some brands of baby wipes or moist towelettes is known to cause severe allergic rashes and blisters.  The Archives of Dermatology reported cases of extremely painful allergic contact dermatitis (lesions) in adult patients.

When the use of the wipes was discontinued, the problem cleared up.  The researchers write that patients “often continue to use the moist toilet paper with the belief that the cleansing will help heal the lesions” and “may not make the correlation that the moist toilet paper is the culprit.”   Continue reading

Lead in Lipsticks: A Poison Kiss?

Last year the FDA found lead, a neurotoxin, in all twenty red lipstick samples they tested.  Lipsticks included popular brands, such as Cover Girl, Revlon, and L’Oreal.  Lead accumulates in the body over time, but the FDA said the lead levels were very small and not a health threat.

Lipstick has 10X the lead than what the FDA allows in candy.

Recent studies in developing children though show that lead is dangerous at any level.  However, the FDA does not review cosmetic ingredients except for pigments.  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics wants the FDA to force manufacturers to reduce lead to the lowest possible levels.

Lipstick contains over ten times the lead than what the FDA allows in candy which is 0.1 ppm.  FDA found lead in all of the lipsticks tested, ranging from 0.09 ppm to 3.06 ppm with an average value of 1.07 ppm.

Continue reading

Sunscreen Additive and Skin Damage

An FDA study found a form of vitamin A, that’s used in sunscreens may actually speed up skin damage.  41% of over 500 sunscreens contain vitamin A, or retinyl palmitate, due to its popularity for preventing wrinkles in cosmetics.  However, preliminary data showed even low doses of this additive may be unsafe.

When applied to the skin, retinyl palmitate reacted with sunlight and increased the development of skin tumors and lesions.  This is disturbing since sunscreens are formulated and promoted as protection against sun damage. The Environmental Working Group researchers recommend only 39 (or eight percent) of the sunscreens on the market this summer.     Continue reading

‘Daily Detox and Health Beverage’ – Is It Really?

Q:“Resurrect Daily Detox and Health Beverage” – Is it really as healthy as it claims to be? ~ M.N., South Lake Tahoe, CA

Resurrect ElixirA: The makers of this beverage, Healthy Innovations, Inc., assert their:

“…elixir is becoming a part of the daily diet for the health conscious individual.  Formulated with 22 vitamins, aminos, electrolytes, and herbs, our unique blend of ingredients help to detoxify your body and energize your soul.”

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Caramel Color, Sucralose, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate

Nutrition Facts: 5 calories – 0 g Sugar – 2 g carbohydrates – 30 mg caffeine per 12 oz can – 60 mg Vitamin C

This beverage is basically a glorified soda containing artificial sugar (sucralose) and flavors.  What is most concerning is the fact that it contains sodium benzoate and vitamin C.  Refer to post How to Prevent Cancer and Aging (Sodium Benzoate) for more details.   Continue reading

Healthy Homekeeping (Clearing the Air)

Q: I like to keep the air conditioner going all summer, but my wife insists we need to “air out the house” and opens up the windows.  My solution to clearing the air is spraying the rooms with Lysol.  Is there anything wrong with that? ~ R.V., Riviera Beach, FL

A: During the summer when you’re hot or homebound, keeping your home closed up tight with the air conditioner on may be a nice retreat from the heat.  Similarly, in the winter you may keep your windows shut all season to block out the cold.  However, keep in mind that the majority of germs are airborne, invisibly transferred, and continually reproduce.

Disinfectant Sprays

What you inhale is absorbed into the bloodstream

What you inhale is absorbed into the bloodstream

Disinfectant sprays are manufactured to kill viruses, bacteria, and fungi on surfaces — not in the air.  Some of the newer ‘sanitizing sprays’ on the market claim to “kill odor-causing bacteria in the air”.  However, be aware of the ingredients that are supposedly ‘refreshing’ the air you breathe.  Once inhaled, these chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream.


A few widely-used brands and their disclosed ingredients are listed below.  Click on the product name to access its Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and the individual chemical for the MSDS on that specific substance.

Lysol® Disinfectant Spray:

  • Alkyl (50% C14, 40% C12, 10% C16) Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Saccharinate – .10-1.0% (No properties, health effects and exposure limits have been defined for this chemical.)
  • Ethanol – 40-60% (May cause reproductive and fetal effects; tumors; and liver, kidney and heart damage.)
  • Petroleum gases (propane, butane, isobutane) – 2.5-10%

Lysol® Neutra Air® Freshmatic®:

Lysol® Neutra Air® Sanitizing Spray:

  • Ethanol SDA200 Proof0-0.5% (Acute and chronic health hazard with eye/skin contact and inhalation.)
  • Ethanol SDA 95% – 20-25% (Acute and chronic health hazard with eye/skin contact and inhalation.  Target organs:  kidneys, central nervous system, and liver.)
  • Alkyl (50% C14, 40% C12, 10% C16) Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Saccharinate – 0-0.1% (No properties, health effects and exposure limits have been defined for this chemical.)
  • Triethylene Glycol – 5-10%  (Toxic to kidneys and nervous system in humans.)
  • Propellant Blend AB-46 – 20-25%

Oust® Air Sanitizer:

Propellants irritate lungs and affect heart rhythm

Propellants irritate lungs and affect heart rhythm

Many of the commercial disinfectant sprays and room fresheners contain propellants which are easily inhaled into the lungs then circulate throughout the body.  Propellants also irritate the lungs and may cause an irregular heart rhythm when inhaled at high concentrations.

Some disinfectant sprays contain o-phenylphenol (a.k.a. 2-Phenylphenol) a derivative of benzene.  Benzene is recognized as a known human carcinogen associated with leukemia.  O-phenylphenol is a recognized carcinogen and a suspected:

  • Cardiovascular or blood toxicant
  • Developmental toxicant
  • Neurotoxicant
  • Reproductive toxicant
  • Respiratory toxicant
  • Skin or sense organ toxicant

Ingredient Disclosures Are Not Required

hazard symbolCommercial cleaning product manufacturers are not required to list all the ingredients on their labels.  A product may contain a dangerous or untested chemical and consumers would be unaware of it.  Even worse, the Poison Control Center might have difficulty identifying the contents.

WARNING: Until a chemical is tested and evaluated, or if the results are not publicly available, current laws recognize the chemical as “safe”.

Open windows to get rid of germs safely

Open up windows to eliminate germs safely

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: Try to brave the chill, heat, and humidity and clean the air naturally in your home.  Open doors and windows during the day as frequently as possible while paying attention to the air quality advisory in your area.

Avoid disinfectant sprays and air sanitizers.  You’ll end up with a chemical cloud in your home that can do more to harm your health than it can to extinguish germs.

© 2009 Karen Owoc and The Health Reporter™.  All Rights Reserved.

How to Stay Healthy (Understanding Chemical Exposure)

retin AChemicals can be beneficial or hazardous to your health when they pass through your skin and have a biological effect on cellular tissues.  Is your skin a chemical trap?

There are three major routes in which chemicals enter the body:

  1. Skin/Eye Contact
  2. Inhalation (breathing)
  3. Digestive System (ingestion or eating)

Basic Skinformation

A. Epidermis  B. Dermis  C.  Hypodermis  D.  Blood & Lymph Vessels  1. Hair shaft  3.  Pigment layer  7.  Sebaceous gland  8.  Hair follicle  9.  Papilla of hair  10.  Nerve fiber  11.  Sweat gland  13.  Artery  14.  Vein  16.  Sweat gland

(A) Epidermis  (B) Dermis  (C) Hypodermis  (D) Blood & Lymph Vessels (1) Hair shaft (8) Hair follicle (10) Nerve fiber  (11) Sweat gland (13)  Artery (14) Vein (16) Sweat pore

The skin is the largest organ of the body and consists basically of three layers:

(A)  Epidermis – outermost layer: Chemicals first make contact with this thin protective layer.

  • It consists of five sub-layers of tightly packed cells.
  • The visible top sub-layer is coated with keratin – a tough horny protein that contains fat and fat-like substances.
  • Keratin cells form the protective barrier against infection, water, injury, harmful ultraviolet rays and damaging pollutants.

(B) Dermis: After a substance passes through all the layers of the epidermis, it contacts this much thicker underlayer called the dermis.  The dermis contains most of the skin’s living structures, such as:

  • Blood vessels (approximately 19 yards of capillaries per square inch)
  • Hair follicles
  • Sweat glands
  • Elastin protein fibers

Once a chemical seeps into the dermis, it is allowed entry into the veins inevitably circulating throughout the bloodstream.   Continue reading

How to Prevent Cancer (Soap and Animal Fats)

Q: What’s the difference between the more expensive soap made with vegetable oils and the cheaper commercial brands of soap? ~ D.W., Los Angeles, CA

A: Soap is the resultant compound made by reacting fat (either from vegetables or animals) with sodium hydroxide.  The less expensive, commercially-manufactured soaps use tallow (animal fat).

Tallow – Is It Fit To Be Fat?

Tallow is a low-cost waste product of the meat industry.  It is basically fat stripped from slaughtered cattle, but it may also include fat rendered from slaughtered sheep and pigs.

Ivory is made from tallow

Ivory is made from tallow

Soap manufactured from animal fat is called sodium tallowate.  50% of a slaughtered steer is tallow and bones – the main ingredient of commercial mass-produced soap.  Ivory® states that their tallow comes from meat processing scraps and consists of beef and/or pork hide and bones.

The Skinny on Animal Fat

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, from the time cattle hides are removed from the animal, rapidly-growing bacteria populates the fresh hide.  In order to control bacterial growth, bactericides and detergent or large amounts of salt need to be used as a preservative.  Further, cattle hide is one of the primary sources of E.coli contamination on carcasses.   Continue reading

How to Prevent Aging and Cancer (Sodium Benzoate)

Benzoates are widely used preservatives

Sodium benzoate (also known as E211) is a chemical preservative used to help inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus in acidic products. It is linked to aging and cancer and is widely used in foods, beverages, cosmetic, dental care products, and pharmaceuticals that contain:

  • Vinegar (salad dressings, pickled foods)
  • Carbonic acid (carbonated drinks)
  • Citric acid (jams, fruit juices, cough syrups, baby wipes, liquid hand soaps)
  • Alcohol (alcohol-based mouthwash)
  • Other high acids (soy sauce, Chinese food sauces)

Manufactured from Crude Oil

Sodium benzoate is used in some sodas

Sodium benzoate is used in some sodas

This crystalline powder is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and is produced by reacting sodium hydroxide (lye) with benzoic acid.  Benzoic acid is commercially manufactured by reacting toluene with oxygen.  Toluene, also known as methylbenzene or phenylmethane, is related to benzene (a carcinogenic substance). Toluene is found in crude oil and used to make gasoline.

Due to the unpleasant aftertaste of sodium benzoate and not so much for toxicity, sodium benzoate concentration is limited by the FDA in the U.S. and should not exceed 0.1% by weight.  Potassium benzoate, the potassium salt of benzoic acid, is an alternative preservative to sodium benzoate.  When lower sodium content is required, potassium benzoate is used in place of sodium benzoate.    Continue reading

What’s In Artificial Food Coloring?

Gatorade_3 colorsQ: What’s in the artificial dyes that are used to color our food? ~ C.O., San Ramon, CA


A: Synthetic colors used to make products more attractive, appealing, and appetizing originally started out from coal tar crudes and are often still called “coal tar colors”.

The origin of colorants

The origin of colorants

Today, according to the Food and Drug Administration, many certified dyes are synthesized from petroleum (crude oil) – a naturally occurring flammable liquid found in the Earth’s rock formations.  Benzene, a known human carcinogen, is a natural constituent of crude oil and coal tar.

It’s hard to imagine that these usually black or dark brown (and sometimes yellowish or greenish) hydrocarbons are the primary raw materials used to manufacture the colorants widely used in:

  • Dawn_purpleFood
  • Drugs
  • Soaps
  • Cleaners/Detergents
  • Cosmetics

Moreover, synthetic coloring agents are recognized as a frequent cause of skin and eye irritation.

Sample of heavy crude oil

Sample of heavy crude oil (the base ingredient of artificial colorants)

Adverse or Carcinogenic Effects


Even though coal-tar and petroleum are extremely volatile, toxic substances, the FDA determines that there is “reasonable certainty” that a dye poses no harm, or the risks are extremely small when used under its proposed conditions.  However, the absolute safety of any substance can never be proven.

In 1900, there were approximately eighty (80) food color additives being used and considered safe.  Due to adverse or carcinogenic effects since then, the list of acceptable FD&C (Food, Drug, & Cosmetic) colorants in the U.S. has been reduced to nine (9) certified colors.

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: Steer away from artificially-colored products which you consume or slather on your skin.  By doing so, you’ll eliminate unnecessary petrochemical additives and possible carcinogens from entering your body.

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© 2009 Karen Owoc and The Health Reporter™.  All Rights Reserved.