Shampoo Might Have Carcinogens In It (And I’m Terrified)

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In case we don’t have enough to worry about these days, our daily shampoo routine might be a major health threat.

Have you ever heard of cocamide DEA? Until today, I hadn’t either, but it’s a form of coconut oil that’s been chemically modified and is used to make bath products thicker or foamier. It can turn up in things like soap, shampoo and conditioner. In June 2012 the state of California listed cocamide DEA as a known cause of cancer. Last summer, the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, California filed lawsuits against some major household companies for selling shampoo and other products with cocamide DEA without including a legally required warning label on the bottle. Yes, this stuff is so scary that it requires a warning label! 

The state came to legal agreements with 26 corporations to stop using the chemical, including Colgate-Palmolive and Walgreens. You can see a long list of companies and products that use cocamide DEA here, but prepare yourself to be semi-horrified. Lots of the products have the kinds of buzzwords on the package that would lead consumers to believe they were making a healthier, more ethical purchase – words like “organic,” “fair trade” or “natural” — yet they were packed with carcinogens. That is so messed up.

The lawsuit means great things for shampoo-ers in California, but do these changes apply to the rest of the country too? Is there a more trustworthy alternative to the shampoos we buy at drugstores and salons? I’m hardcore considering the shampoo-free life right about now. The idea of unknowingly washing my hair with carcinogens really freaks me out. It also makes me feel really anxious and out of control of my own health, because I can’t imagine how many other chemicals have secretly seeped into my life through other household items that I’ll never hear about. People go to such great lengths to care of themselves and keep their bodies healthy, all without knowing that the products they use every day are a bigger danger than the greasy cheeseburger they passed up at lunch.

[SFGate, Center For Environmental Health]

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