6 everyday products you didn't know harm the environment
Next time you look under your bathroom sink,
you might just find a number of everyday
items that are ruining the planet.
Many products we use to stay clean and
healthy are actually harming the environment,
animal life and — ultimately — us, too.
SEE ALSO: 6 Major Climate Change Myths,
Those microbeads in your daily facial cleanser
might help clear your pores, but they're made
of plastic and clogging the world's waterways.
Sunscreen is crucial to prevent skin cancer, but
your specific brand of SPF 50 could be
contributing to coral bleaching. And the palm
oil in that moisturizer is likely a result of
manufacturing practices that contribute to
climate change and negative social impact.
Below, we've compiled a list of common
lifestyle products that are harming the
environment every time you use and purchase
1. Facial cleansers with
A number of facial cleansers, toothpastes and
other cosmetic and hygiene products use
plastic microbeads as an exfoliant. Not only
are these polyethylene beads potentially
harmful to your skin if used too roughly,
they're also terrible for the environment,
adding to plastic pollution in waterways. As a
result, fish and other marine life may mistake
these microbeads for food.
Illinois was the first U.S. state to ban products
with microbeads in 2014. New York's attorney
general proposed a similar ban in 2014, and
asked lawmakers to pass the Microbead-Free
Waters Act in February 2015, following a
report that New York residents wash 19 tons
of microbeads down their drains each year.
California, Ohio and Minnesota are
considering similar legislation.
You can find a PDF of known products with
microbeads through the International
Campaign Against Microbeads in Cosmetics.
IMAGE: MASHABLE COMPOSITE; AMAZON
2. Shampoos and soaps with
Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is a common
chemical compound found in cosmetics, and it
also acts as a foaming agent in various
hygiene products, such as shampoo and soap.
While the suds may feel good on your skin and
add the illusion of extra cleanliness, SLES can
be contaminated with traces of 1,4-Dioxane,
which the EPA has labeled a probable human
The chemical isn't readily biodegradable,
which means it can build up in the
environment and stay there for a long time.
You can easily find sulfate-free products from
several big brands.
IMAGE: JEFF KARPALA
According to a widely cited 2008 study from
the journal Environmental Health
Perspectives, four common chemicals in
sunscreen -- paraben, cinnamate,
benzophenone and camphor derivatives --
contribute to coral bleaching (leaving the coral
vulnerable to viral infections, disease and
death) around the world. The researchers
estimated that up to 6,000 metric tons of
sunscreen wash off into the oceans each year,
and 10% of all coral reefs have been affected.
Experts suggest using eco-friendly chemical
sunscreens or organic mineral sunscreens
President Obama signed the Sunscreen
Innovation Act into law in December 2014,
establishing an official path for review of
safer ingredients in sunscreens. However, the
focus is more on finding healthier and more
effective ingredients, rather than on
IMAGE: MUJO KORACH/MATTON
4. Deodorants with triclosan
Triclosan, an antibacterial agent used in many
deodorants, soaps and cleaning products since
1972, now permeates the environment, found
in places such as surface waters, soil and fish
According to Tufts University's Alliance for the
Prudent Use of Antibiotics, studies show that
the chemical has been found in rivers, streams
and sewage sludge used as fertilizer. While
there are conflicting reports pertaining to
triclosan's harmful affects in animals, it has
proven toxic to aquatic organisms.
Look for products with alcohol or hydrogen
peroxide as the antibacterial agent instead.
IMAGE: UDIT KULSHRESTHA/BLOOMBERG/
5. Lip balm derived from
Most lip balms are made from ingredients
derived from petroleum, such as petrolatum
(also known as petroleum jelly). As a result,
petrolatum could be contaminated with
policyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS) --
which are high in wildlife and environmental
The European Union has banned the use of
petrolatum in cosmetics unless the full
refining history can show it contains no
As an alternative, find balms that are made
from more natural ingredients.
IMAGE: FABRICE LEROUGE/
6. Moisturizers with palm oil
Palm oil is in half the products we buy,
according to The Guardian, including popular
health and beauty products, such as
But increased demand for the ingredient has
spurred unsustainable production practices,
according to a March 2015 report from the
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Oil palm
plantations are guilty of deforestation,
landscape fires and draining peatlands -- all of
which contribute to climate change. Toxic
smoke from landscape fires kills 110,000
people in Southeast Asia every year, and the
creation of new plantations can have negative
social and economic impacts.
Opt for products that brands have clearly
labelled as made from sustainable palm oil.
"The best solution is [for] multinational
companies to demand a product that [is]
produced without harming the environment or
the surrounding populations," Lael Goodman,
author of the UCS report, said in a statement.