Use Soap? YOU May Be Toxic


If you use soap or cosmetics, your body could harbor a surprisingly high amount of a toxic chemical used in these products: diethyl phthalate. Federal health officials have conducted the first nationwide study to measure the levels of 24 environmental toxins in Americans' blood and urine, and the results are frightening. In the case of diethyl phthalate, levels were "considerably higher than one would have predicted," said Dr. Richard Jackson, director of the National Center for Environmental Health. That's probably because the soaps and cosmetics containing diethyl phthalate are applied directly to our skin. Animal studies suggest that large amounts of diethyl phthalate can disrupt hormone function and cause birth defects. Studies are still underway as to whether repeated exposure is harmful to humans. Previous studies of environmental toxins have been limited to measuring the amount of chemicals in the air, soil, and water. This test, conducted in 1999 with 3,800 people, measured the amount of chemicals--such as lead, mercury, and pesticides—we’re actually absorbing into our bodies. The government plans to conduct the test annually and will expand it to 100 chemicals. "It could be revolutionary in terms of environmental health in the United States," Jackson said. --Cathryn Conroy