Welcome to Movember, when brave men everywhere grow moustaches to fight cancer. But in all this talk of groomin' for a cure, no one's chatting about the carcinogens hiding in men's products - until now.
Just this week Environmental Defence dropped a new report entitled Manscaping: The Dirt On Toxic Ingredients In Men's Bodycare Products. It asked five men from four provinces what products they used most and lab-tested 17 for toxins.
The group checked for dodgy ingredients listed on the label (like parabens) as well as toxins not mentioned anywhere. In the MIA category, first up is 1,4-dioxane. The carcinogenic by-product found in ingredients such as sodium laureth sulfate was overflowing from shampoos like Pert Plus, Head & Shoulders and Tresemmé Naturals. The highest levels of 1,4-dioxane were found in L'Oréal Preference hair dye.
If this were California and someone alerted the attorney general to these test results, the AG would launch a lawsuit telling makers to either slap a "this product contains a carcinogen" warning on their label or reformulate. Here in Canada, without similar right-to-know regs, we're stuck sudsing with carcinogens in the dark.
As for hidden phthalates in fragrance (linked to male hormone disruption, testicular cancer and fertility problems), a good chunk of artificially scented products were surprisingly phthalate-free (serious improvement over previous years of testing).
But there were plenty of phthalate offenders, including Aqua Velva, Old Spice Deodorant and Calvin Klein Obsession, all heavy in DEP (diethyl phthalate, linked to DNA damage in human sperm). Pert Plus shampoo contained DEHP, a probable human carcinogen banned from children's toys in this country.
Good news for teenage boys everywhere: as overpowering as Axe scents can be, the Axe product tested in ED's report was actually free of detectable phthalates. Not that Axe is free of other air pollutants. The sprays still contain greenhouse gas hydrofluorocarbon 152A. In 2010, California sued the makers of Axe for manufacturing products that contaminated the air with way too many volatile organic compounds.
And phthalates weren't the only toxins lurking in artificial scents. Hormone-disrupting artificial musk chemicals are known water and body polluters. Pretty much all the scented products - be they shaving creams, deodorants, shampoos, cologne - contained a combination of artificial musks (including not so pure Ivory Soap). Exceptions were Dove men's soap, Pears Soap and Rexall Shaving Cream.
Fewer products are using controversial parabens as preservatives these days, but some are still using preservatives that release formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) instead.
Who's guilty? Tresemmé Naturals Shampoo and Axe Hold & Touch hair glue.
Out of all the products in Environmental Defence's toxin testing, one is actually a Movember sponsor: Speedstick. What did ED find inside? Well, for one, potential thyroid disruptor BHT. It also contains suspected endocrine disruptor and artificial musk galaxolide, a water pollutant that's also been found in the cord blood of newborn babies, as well as eco pollutant cyclomethicone.
So now what? Look at lopping off a product or two from your personal care routine. It's the quickest way to reduce your chemical burden. The average man uses six personal care products a day, which adds up to an average of 80 chemical substances, the vast majority of which have not been tested for safety.
You'll also want to scan labels for my Mean 15 list of ingredients to avoid (ecoholic.ca/mean15). Health stores aren't perfect, but they generally carry cleaner lines than what you'll find at the drugstore.
And don't hold back - let your favourite brand know that you're going to switch until they stop lacing it with unnecessary toxins. Post your protests on their corporate Facebook site. As well, be sure to mail your MP and let him or her know that you support tougher chemical protection when it comes to body care. Oh, and tell them you want community right-to-know regs like Cali's (see bcam.qc.ca for a petition on this).
If you're going to sculpt your Movember 'stache, you have a right to know whether you're doing so with a can full of carcinogens.