Safe Shampoos, Synthetic Oil and Economics: The Latest on Cleansers, Auto Emissions and Environmental Regulation. (Ask E)
Chadwick, Ben, E Magazine
Are the shampoo and bath wash ingredients Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate hazardous in any way?--Carol Bean, Lyme, NH
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are surface cleansers derived from coconut oil, used in a variety of household and industrial products. Anti-SLS/SLES propaganda pervades the Internet and alternative product packaging, but rarely coincides with scientific research.
The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association's Food and Drug Administration-approved experts panel, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), has acquitted the slandered sulfates. The CIR reports SLS is "safe in formulations designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin" and SLES, "safe as presently used in cosmetic formulations." According to Tom's of Maine spokesperson Beverly Kardulis, "The claims about SLS are false and unsubstantiated; it's a naturally-derived ingredient, and we're completely comfortable using it in our products."
In substantially higher concentrations, SLS and SLES can cause dermatitis and eye irritation, but no research has suggested any link to other medical disorders. Critics of SLS--usually companies selling alternative shampoos--often mention a study from the Medical College of Georgia (MCG). The study purportedly concludes that SLS inhibits children's eye development, causes cataracts, builds up in critical organs and could lead to baldness. However, according to MCG Regents Professor of Ophthalmology Keith Green, the report's author, "My work does not lead one to those conclusions in any way, shape or form." The actual paper claims only that diluted SLS solution inhibits repair of lesions in a specific corneal membrane. There's not one word about baldness.
For those still concerned about product safety, there are many choices available without SLS and SLES. A quick search on the Internet, or a phone call to most natural product suppliers, will yield numerous alternatives. CONTACT: Health Care Without Harm, (612)870-4846, www.noharm.org.
Will using synthetic motor oil, instead of conventional oil, reduce my car's emissions? David Bedell, New Canaan, CT
Conventional oil is derived from petroleum refining; synthetic oils are chemically manufactured replicas. Conventional oils contain impurities that build up, forming deposits in the car. Synthetic oils, by contrast, keep the engine clean and generally free of debris, and can stay on the job three times as long. Unfortunately, synthetics are also three times more expensive. …