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The #1 Hidden Health Threat—And What To Do About It

Is it just me, or does it seem like almost everything has an “all-natural” or “non-toxic” label on it these days? It makes sense though—clean products with safe ingredients are hardly just a passing fad. In The Guardian article, Pretty hurts: are chemicals in beauty products making us ill? Nneka Leiba, director of healthy living science at EWG (which has been monitoring chemicals in cosmetics for over a decade) states: “Cancer is on the rise, infertility is on the rise, allergies in children are on the rise, and people can’t figure out why. The increases are not just due to genetics and new diagnostic techniques.” Leiba is right, and if you don’t already use safely formulated, natural products, or if you are someone who tends to be more focused on other aspects of your health, you may want to consider applying that same focus and care that you give to your diet and fitness to the products you put directly onto your skin and use in your home.

Let’s back up a little to my recent podcast episode (#350) with Melanie Avalon, Avoiding Endocrine Disruptors and Toxic Skincare Products. If you haven’t listened to it yet, check it out, as Melanie offers a lot of helpful information—she explains how certain toxic compounds interact with each other and how this can actually increase toxicity levels, why you can’t trust every home and body product line that claims to be “natural,” and the clean brands she does recommend. She also revealed that there is a connection between endocrine disruptors and carcinogens and explained why certain ingredients have such a profound effect on all aspects of our health. Further, she brought to light the unfortunate fact that there is an extensive list of ingredients that have long been banned in Europe, but many of these ingredients are still commonly used in America. These toxic elements are lurking everywhere—from skincare to soap to laundry detergent and deodorant….plus, countless cosmetics (lipstick is a common one).

And that’s just the home and body products! For the first time, scientists have actually found microplastics in human blood! While we have already known that super small particles of non-biodegradable plastic are scattered across the planet, scientists discovered the same particles in human blood in a breakthrough study published in Environmental International. The study revealed that researchers who analyzed blood samples from 22 healthy adults found plastic particles in 17 of them (about 77%). Half of the samples contained PET plastic (the kind commonly used in water bottles), a third had polystyrene (used in food packaging), and a quarter had polyethylene (the plastic used to make grocery bags).

The tiny size of these particles cannot be understated—some of them are 140 times smaller than the width of a single hair. The study’s author Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam believes it’s reasonable to be concerned about the revelation that these tiny particles can travel around the body, saying: “Where is it going in your body? Can it be eliminated?Excreted? Or is it retained in certain organs, accumulating maybe, or is it even able to pass the blood-brain barrier?” 

Scientists are still studying the long-term damage that microplastics inside us will have on our health, but lab experiments have revealed that they cause damage to human cells, and we already know that millions of early deaths a year are directly related to air pollution particles people inhale. Researchers have yet to determine exactly how microplastics enter the bloodstream, although Vethaak believes potential sources include food, water, personal care products (ranging from toothpaste to lip gloss), as well as dental polymers, tattoo ink, and anything that can be accidentally ingested.

Another likely source of these microplastics? Salt. A study that examined sea, rock, and lake salt from 21 countries (ranging from Europe, North and South America to Africa and Asia) found 90% of table salts contain microplastics. Only three kinds of salt did notcontain microplastics: unrefined sea salt (produced by solar evaporation) from France, refined sea salt from Taiwan, and refined rock salt from China. The National Geographic also noted that, “in another indicator of the geographic density of plastic pollution,” microplastics levels were highest in sea salt, followed by lake salt and then rock salt. The study also estimated the average adult consumes approximately 2,000 microplastics a year, just through salt alone.  

However, there is some good news: not everything out there is bad for you! There are *three* salt sources that still do not contain microplastics, and many companies are becoming more conscious about the ingredients they use—but the increasing demand for clean products also inevitably ensures that some brands will jump on the all-natural bandwagon just because they know it’s profitable and trendy. This can unfortunately make it a bit trickier to navigate through what can seem like an endless array of options for safe products, as there are plenty of so-called “natural” offerings that still don’t contain the cleanest ingredients, meaning you still have to do more research to make sure that you’re really getting something non-toxic. 

But this can get pretty time consuming (there are way too many product lines to count out there!), so when Melanie told me about her go-to brand BeautyCounter, I was impressed after learning that this company was rooted in a core mission to, in their words, “set the cleanest standards in beauty.” 

True to their word, there are over 1,800 ingredients that BeautyCounter never uses in their products—they call it “The Never List” for a reason! They are seriously committed to sustainability too, and all about doing everything they can as a company to advocate for a cleaner future. I’ve been using a lot of their stuff lately—and while I really like the fact that I can trust that everything is totally safe to use on my skin, it’s an equally big win to me that this clean brand is also super effective and high quality. Click here if you want to take a look at their products (my favorite is the Vitamin C serum), or go to BeautyCounter.com/BradKearns.

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