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As a woman and a parent, I

It’s not that I’m naïve, and aren’t aware that certain products like hair colouring, or nail polish and remover contain toxic ingredients, but it is the recent revelation that items that seem so benign as lipstick or mascara, may contain mercury and lead. If that’s not enough, the scarier piece of news is that products that we choose to bathe our babies in, and wash our children’s hair with, and soothe their dry skin with, can also be toxic.


This is a wakeup call to all of us who never think twice about teenage girls putting lipstick on, or even little girls playing dress-up and borrowing our old lipstick, to check the product out before we let our kids to ingest it, and they do.


The problem for parents and consumers is that cosmetics and beauty products are not held to stringent disclosure requirements. As long as they believe trace amounts to be safe, it doesn’t seem to be an issue. My question is why would anyone in 2008 need to put mercury or lead in my lipstick or mascara? Why do we need to put toxic preservatives in baby shampoo?


There is no fast and easy way to determine ‘safe’ products, but you can get a really good start from a free database published online by The Environmental Working Group’s callled the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database, where they list the products and their level of toxicity from 0-9.  They also provide a very handy printable list of ‘safe’ children’s products at


By the way, if you’re pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant soon, make sure you visit this database because some beauty products are toxic enough to affect fertility and fetal health.

While some claim that these preservatives and additives are too minute to cause harm, it's nevertheless important for parents to have the information so we can make our own judgetment calls.


To read what the Canadian Government has published on cosmetic safety, visit:


About the author: Nancy Slawski is a writer and founding director of Copyright 2008. Contact for reprint permission.