Posts Tagged ‘fda’
Of all of the ingredients hiding in cosmetics these days, from parabens to phthalates, you may never have guessed that many of your favorite shades of lipstick, shadows, and blushes contained bugs. Yes, that’s right, our good old six-legged friends from the insect world are widely used to produce carmine, or a bright red color extracted from their tiny little bodies. And you’ll find it nearly everywhere, except on the cruelty-free shelves of Bambu Batu, where we now carry All Good Lips SPF18 Beauty Tints, the newest product from Elemental Herbs, which is 100% carmine free (relying instead on mica for coloring) and boasts the same healing properties as their organic lip balms, made with five medicinal herbs.
The cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) bug is a scale insect of the suborder Sternorrhyncha, a parasite that lives primarily on the nutrients and moisture of cacti. The red color used for dye is known as carminic acid, and is manufactured by the cochineal bug as a defense against predators. To prepare carmine for use in the cosmetic or food industry, the powdered insects are boiled in either ammonia or sodium carbonate, filtered to remove the parts that cannot be dissolved, and added to a clear salt solution to create a red aluminum salt.
The insects can also be boiled with water and treated with alum, cream of tartar, stannous chloride, or potassium hydrogen oxalate to create a salt. We know this salt as “carmine lake”, “crimson lake”, or “natural red 4”, and it can be found everywhere from yogurt and Jell-O to the products we apply to our faces. There are some who are allergic to the dye, and these individuals must avoid foods and cosmetics with lake colors for risk of developing anaphylactic shock, asthma, or hives.
The dye itself has been used in Central America since the 15th century to color fabrics, but did not become an international export until the period of colonization beginning in the 1700s. The demand for cochineal dye fell during the 19th century as synthetic dyes began to take the place of naturally produced coloring agents. Currently, cochineal dyes are sought as alternatives to man-made chemicals, although many are wary about allergic reactions and killing 70,000 bugs to make one pound of dye. In the US, carmine is approved by the FDA as safe to use, but must be clearly labeled on packaging as an ingredient.
Now that you know where that lovely red hue is made, would you still wear that favorite shade of rouge or drink that bottle of pink lemonade? Aside from health concerns, what are the ethical implications of carmine in cosmetics and foodstuffs?
In addition to smoking cigarettes and making toast in the bathtub, you may now put paraffin candles on your “to avoid” list. Lighting one of these wax candles can release toxins such as toluene and benzene into the atmosphere. Far from the relaxing or romantic gesture that these flammable favorites are intended to represent, paraffin could in fact cause cancer, dizziness or asthma if used on a regular basis. In 2009, researchers presented their findings to the annual American Chemical Society’s meeting in Washington, and identified paraffin candles as a previously unrecognized source of indoor air pollution. The National Candle Association maintains that paraffin is not toxic as it is approved by the FDA, but those with allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, or other concerns about the use of petroleum products would do best to purchase beeswax or soy candles.
Soy candles made from hydrogenated soybean oil, and beeswax produced by the bodies of the humble insect, are clean-burning, last longer than paraffin, are environmentally friendly, and do not drip or leave sooty deposits. Beeswax in particular produces negative ions, which have been shown to increase the production of serotonin in the brain and elevate mood. As a business that is concerned with the health of the human animal and the spaces they inhabit, Bambu Batu carries a only soy and beeswax candles, including scented and unscented lines from Big Dipper Wax Works, VegePure and Sparx.
Now that you have been enlightened and want to get rid of those old paraffin offenders, there are a few resources that may help you to dispose of them with the minimum of environmental impact. “Take-back” programs such as the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District in Duluth, MN or ecycler.com accepts old paraffin candles or crayons via the post and recycles them into campfire starters or new drawing tools. Earth911 is an excellent site that allows you to find the appropriate resting place for just about anything, or if you are feeling crafty, you can even make your own ski wax with old candles.
Lighten your load and get rid of the old oil-based tea lights and tapers for something a little more natural!