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Environmentalists call these 12 chemicals the Dirty Dozen. Here's why.

Warning: Abbreviations ahead!

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Seventh Generation

You may have heard of the Dirty Dozen — 12 chemicals that activists have identified as potentially harmful that we regularly come in contact with in our home, health, and beauty products.

Over the past decade, a lot of science and research has gone into figuring out the long- and short-term health effects of products we use in our homes and on our bodies. The jury is still out on most of them, but some of the findings are worth a closer look.

In 2010, Canada's David Suzuki Foundation did a study on the 12 chemicals and compounds they felt consumers should try to avoid. Since the study was published, some governments have banned some of the chemicals and some companies are reformulating their products so they don't contain them.


Are the Dirty Dozen hanging out in your home somewhere? Here's why these ingredients are on the list:

1. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)

These two preservatives can be found in moisturizers and cream makeups. Image via iStock.

These two synthetic antioxidants are often used as preservatives in cosmetics (mostly lipsticks and moisturizers) and as food preservatives. They're also potentially allergenic, particularly on the skin.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies BHA and BHT as possible human carcinogens, and the European Commission on Endocrine Disruptors lists BHA as a Category 1 priority substance, citing evidence that it interferes with hormone function in mice and rats.

Neither BHA nor BHT are restricted in the United States. California includes BHA on its list of chemicals that must be listed on product ingredient labels as potentially cancer-causing.

2. Coal tar dyes: p-phenylenediamine and colors listed as "CI" followed by a five-digit number

Coal tar (shown above) is a petroleum byproduct mixed with other chemicals. Image via iStock.

Coal tar dyes (chemical name p-phenylenediamine) are very popular in the cosmetic industry — particularly in hair dye — because they provide rich, long-lasting color. But, like a lot of petroleum-based products, some researchers and activists fear there may be health risks from exposure to them.

Research has linked coal tar dyes to tumors in laboratory mice, and other researchers may have found a connection between long-term use of hair dyes and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is unconvinced; it's waiting to see more research before making a firm decision on how to classify coal tar dyes.

The European Union (EU), by comparison, has taken a precautionary approach and classifies coal tar dyes as moderately toxic to humans.

Helpful hint: If you're looking at labels, you can tell if a coal tar dye is used in a product by looking for the the name p-phenylenediamine or the abbreviations FD&C or D&C followed by a five-digit color index number.

3. Diethanolamine (DEA), cocamide DEA, and lauramide DEA


Some shampoos get an extra kick from DEA. Image via iStock.

Consumers love creamy or sudsy personal care products. DEA helps with that. For personal care products, it's most common in moisturizers, sunscreens, and shampoos. As a cleaning product additive, it can be found in soaps and cleansers looking for an added bubbly kick.

Activists became concerned about DEA after some research found that DEA can cause skin and eye irritation, and some high doses have caused liver cancers in to laboratory animals. There are no restrictions on the use of DEA in the United States, but the EU does not allow its use in cosmetics, citing the risk of long-term exposure.

4. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)

Some "no-chip" nail polishes may get their staying power from DBP. Image via iStock.

Dibutyl phthalate has lots of uses. It can keep nail polishes from chipping, help keep PVC flexible, and be a solvent for dyes or fragrances. The reason activists put it on the list of ingredients to keep an eye on is because in a laboratory study, researchers found it absorbs through the skin and can "enhance the capacity of other chemicals to cause mutations." Other research found it interfered with hormone function, maybe even for pregnant women. There's still a lot of research to be done, so the U.S. hasn't put any restrictions on DBP; the EU, though, does not allow it in cosmetic products.

5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives

These are medical sutures stored in formaldehyde, but lots of beauty and personal care products use chemicals that may release formaldehyde over time. Image via iStock.

Formaldehyde has a lot of uses in personal care, cleaning products, and industrial construction. It is found as a preservative in cosmetics and an active ingredient in some toilet bowl cleaners. It can also be released from a wide range of industrial products including some permanent-press fabrics and vinyl and wood-laminate flooring.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits the amount of formaldehyde in some construction materials because on its own, formaldehyde is a carcinogen and is toxic to humans if ingested.

When personal care products or cosmetics are said to contain formaldehyde, what they usually contain are actually formaldehyde-releasers. It's unclear whether they are harmful; the FDA doesn't restrict the use of them in cosmetics or personal care products, preferring to require disclosure on ingredient labels instead. The EU has strongly restricted the use of formaldehyde in industrial and consumer products since 2014, citing its carcinogenic risk.

6. Parabens

Parabens help some cosmetics stay pretty longer. They may also be dangerous. Image via iStock.

If you drink fruit juices or use cosmetics or fragrance products, you likely have encountered parabens, an extremely popular preservative.

Some activists are concerned by parabens, citing research that it potentially has adverse health risks when it's absorbed through the skin. Some studies have shown that parabens can mimic the effects of estrogen, the female sex hormone which could lead to a possible increase to breast cancer risk or potentially interfere with male reproductive function. Despite activists' concerns, more definitive research is needed.

7. Parfum (aka fragrance)

Lots of products use the catch-all terms parfum and fragrance for the proprietary mix of chemicals that make up their signature scents. Image via iStock.

Since there are no regulations requiring companies to disclose the ingredient lists of their signature scents, many of them simply say parfum or fragrance on the label. This can be misleading because the smells that make up a fragrance can come from any number of essential oils or chemical compounds.

For people with chemical sensitivities, these unlisted ingredients can trigger allergic reactions, migraines, or cause asthma. Environment Canada has also found that some synthetic musks used in fragrances can build up in the fatty tissue of fish and other water-bound organisms. Other fragrance additives, like DEP (see #4 above) help scents stay in the air longer, but have been shown in laboratory environments to potentially interrupt hormone functions.

Unfortunately, it is hard to know whether a specific fragrance or parfum contains potentially unsafe ingredients. If companies say their product fragrance is a trade secret, they aren't required to list what's in it on the ingredient label.

8. Polyethylene glycol (PEG)

PEG compounds can be found in some cosmetic cream bases — and laxatives. Image via iStock.

Polyethylene glycols are petroleum compounds most often found helping makeup and face creams deliver moisture. If perfectly pure, they are considered generally safe, though they're not recommended for use on broken skin. In rare cases, polyethylene glycol compounds can become contaminated with ethylene oxide, and that's when activists get concerned. Ethylene oxide is a known carcinogen that has also been shown in some research environments to cause developmental problems. All of this considered, the Environmental Working Group rates the overall hazard of using polyethylene glycols as "low."

9. Petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly or Vaseline)

Some glossy lipsticks get their shine from petrolatum. Image via iStock.

Tyra Banks swears by mineral oil jelly as her holy grail makeup product. It's an excellent moisture barrier to keep skin hydrated and is often added to skin care and hair care products.

But, because it is petroleum-based, there's a risk it could be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Research has shown a link between long-term exposure to these petroleum byproducts and cancer. Based on that evidence, the EU classifies petrolatum as a carcinogen and only allows its use "if the full refining history is known and it can be shown that the substance from which it is produced is not a carcinogen." There are no such restrictions in the United States at the moment.

10. Siloxanes

Siloxanes are a group of chemical compounds based on silicone, a popular additive in many cosmetics and personal care products. Image via iStock.

If you like a clean windshield, dry underarms, or a smooth makeup base, you've probably used products containing siloxane. Two siloxanes in particular, cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) and cylcopentasiloxane (D5), have been studied by researchers in Canada and the EU extensively.

Environment Canada concluded that both D4 and D5 may build up in fish or other aquatic organisms but did not pose a threat to human health. The European study reached a similar conclusion, rating the chemicals as "high concern" but of no risk to human health.

11. Sodium laureth sulfate

Sodium laureth sulfate helps some shampoos stay foamier for longer. Image via iStock.

If you like lots of bubbles when you wash dishes or use shampoo, you may have sodium laureth sulfate to thank. It's a common foaming agent used in dish soaps, cleansers, and foamy beauty products. But, like polyethylene glycol (#8 on this list), sodium laureth sulfate can — on rare occasions — become contaminated with the known carcinogen ethylene oxide. Fortunately that's very unlikely to happen, so the Environmental Working Group rates the overall hazard of sodium laureth sulfate as "low."

12. Triclosan

Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical sometimes found in alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Image via iStock.

Triclosan is a very effective anti-bacterial chemical found in lots of common consumer products, including toothpaste, hand sanitizers, laundry detergent, and facial tissues, among others.

As we've written before, research has shown that triclosan sticks around in the environment long after we've finished using it, killing helpful algaes and even accumulating in the bodies of other organisms.

Triclosan was banned in personal care products ibanned in personal care products in the EU earlier this year. The EPA currently has it under review, and the FDA is reserving judgment until further research is done.

For a lot of these products, the research into their possible health impacts is still very new. Much is still to be done, and the definitive answers for what's safe and what's not may not be known for years — maybe even decades.

Until there is a scientific consensus, the smartest thing you can do for your health is what you're probably already doing: reading product labels, following warnings, and learning what companies are required to say (and sometimes don't say).

Pop Culture

Airbnb host finds unexpected benefits from not charging guests a cleaning fee

Host Rachel Boice went for a more "honest" approach with her listings—and saw major perks because of it.

@rachelrboice/TikTok

Many frustrated Airbnb customers have complained that the separate cleaning fee is a nuisance.

Airbnb defines its notorious cleaning fee as a “one-time charge” set by the host that helps them arrange anything from carpet shampoo to replenishing supplies to hiring an outside cleaning service—all in the name of ensuring guests have a “clean and tidy space.”

But as many frustrated Airbnb customers will tell you, this feature is viewed as more of a nuisance than a convenience. According to NerdWallet, the general price for a cleaning fee is around $75, but can vary greatly between listings, with some units having cleaning fees that are higher than the nightly rate (all while sometimes still being asked to do certain chores before checking out). And often none of these fees show up in the total price until right before the booking confirmation, leaving many travelers feeling confused and taken advantage of.

However, some hosts are opting to build cleaning fees into the overall price of their listings, mimicking the strategy of traditional hotels.

Rachel Boice runs two Airbnb properties in Georgia with her husband Parker—one being this fancy glass plane tiny house (seen below) that promises a perfect glamping experience.

@rachelrboice Welcome to The Tiny Glass House 🤎 #airbnbfinds #exploregeorgia #travelbucketlist #tinyhouse #glampingnotcamping #atlantageorgia #fyp ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

Like most Airbnb hosts, the Boice’s listing showed a nightly rate and separate cleaning fee. According to her interview with Insider, the original prices broke down to $89 nightly, and $40 for the cleaning fee.

But after noticing the negative response the separate fee got from potential customers, Rachel told Insider that she began charging a nightly rate that included the cleaning fee, totaling to $129 a night.

It’s a marketing strategy that more and more hosts are attempting in order to generate more bookings (people do love feeling like they’re getting a great deal) but Boice argued that the trend will also become more mainstream since the current Airbnb model “doesn’t feel honest.”

"We stay in Airbnbs a lot. I pretty much always pay a cleaning fee," Boice told Insider. "You're like: 'Why am I paying all of this money? This should just be built in for the cost.'"

Since combining costs, Rachel began noticing another unexpected perk beyond customer satisfaction: guests actually left her property cleaner than before they were charged a cleaning fee. Her hypothesis was that they assumed she would be handling the cleaning herself.

"I guess they're thinking, 'I'm not paying someone to clean this, so I'll leave it clean,'" she said.

This discovery echoes a similar anecdote given by another Airbnb host, who told NerdWallet guests who knew they were paying a cleaning fee would “sometimes leave the place looking like it’s been lived in and uncleaned for months.” So, it appears to be that being more transparent and lumping all fees into one overall price makes for a happier (and more considerate) customer.

These days, it’s hard to not be embittered by deceptive junk fees, which can seem to appear anywhere without warning—surprise overdraft charges, surcharges on credit cards, the never convenience “convenience charge” when purchasing event tickets. Junk fees are so rampant that certain measures are being taken to try to eliminate them outright in favor of more honest business approaches.

Speaking of a more honest approach—as of December 2022, AirBnb began updating its app and website so that guests can see a full price breakdown that shows a nightly rate, a cleaning fee, Airbnb service fee, discounts, and taxes before confirming their booking.

Guests can also activate a toggle function before searching for a destination, so that full prices will appear in search results—avoiding unwanted financial surprises.


This article originally appeared on 11.08.23

Science

MIT’s trillion-frames-per-second camera can capture light as it travels

"There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

Photo from YouTube video.

Photographing the path of light.

A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.

Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.


The actual event occurred in a nano second, but the camera has the ability to slow it down to twenty seconds.

time, science, frames per second, bounced light

The amazing camera.

Photo from YouTube video.

For some perspective, according to New York Times writer, John Markoff, "If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years."


In the video below, you'll see experimental footage of light photons traveling 600-million-miles-per-hour through water.

It's impossible to directly record light so the camera takes millions of scans to recreate each image. The process has been called femto-photography and according to Andrea Velten, a researcher involved with the project, "There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

(H/T Curiosity)


This article originally appeared on 09.08.17

Pop Culture

A brave fan asks Patrick Stewart a question he doesn't usually get and is given a beautiful answer

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through.

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through. However, how he answered this vulnerable and brave fan's question is one of the most eloquent, passionate responses about domestic violence I've ever seen.



WARNING: At 2:40, he's going to break your heart a little.

You can read more about Heather Skye's hug with Captain Picard at her blog.


This article originally appeared on 06.26.13.


A map of the United States post land-ice melt.


Land ice: We got a lot of it.

Considering the two largest ice sheets on earth — the one on Antarctica and the one on Greenland — extend more than 6 million square miles combined ... yeah, we're talkin' a lot of ice.

But what if it was all just ... gone? Not like gone gone, but melted?


If all of earth's land ice melted, it would be nothing short of disastrous.

And that's putting it lightly.

This video by Business Insider Science (seen below) depicts exactly what our coastlines would look like if all the land ice melted. And spoiler alert: It isn't great.

Lots of European cities like, Brussels and Venice, would be basically underwater.

In Africa and the Middle East? Dakar, Accra, Jeddah — gone.

Millions of people in Asia, in cities like Mumbai, Beijing, and Tokyo, would be uprooted and have to move inland.

South America would say goodbye to cities like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

And in the U.S., we'd watch places like Houston, San Francisco, and New York City — not to mention the entire state of Florida — slowly disappear into the sea.

All GIFs via Business Insider Science/YouTube.

Business Insider based these visuals off National Geographic's estimation that sea levels will rise 216 feet (!) if all of earth's land ice melted into our oceans.

There's even a tool where you can take a detailed look at how your community could be affected by rising seas, for better or worse.

Although ... looking at these maps, it's hard to imagine "for better" is a likely outcome for many of us.

Much of America's most populated regions would be severely affected by rising sea levels, as you'll notice exploring the map, created by Alex Tingle using data provided by NASA.

Take, for instance, the West Coast. (Goodbye, San Fran!)

Or the East Coast. (See ya, Philly!)

And the Gulf Coast. (RIP, Bourbon Street!)

I bring up the topic not just for funsies, of course, but because the maps above are real possibilities.

How? Climate change.

As we continue to burn fossil fuels for energy and emit carbon into our atmosphere, the planet gets warmer and warmer. And that, ladies and gentlemen, means melted ice.

A study published this past September by researchers in the U.S., U.K., and Germany found that if we don't change our ways, there's definitely enough fossil fuel resources available for us to completely melt the Antarctic ice sheet.

Basically, the self-inflicted disaster you see above is certainly within the realm of possibility.

"This would not happen overnight, but the mind-boggling point is that our actions today are changing the face of planet Earth as we know it and will continue to do so for tens of thousands of years to come," said lead author of the study Ricarda Winkelmann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

If we want to stop this from happening," she says, "we need to keep coal, gas, and oil in the ground."

The good news? Most of our coastlines are still intact! And they can stay that way, too — if we act now.

World leaders are finallystarting to treat climate change like the global crisis that it is — and you can help get the point across to them, too.

Check out Business Insider's video below:

This article originally appeared on 12.08.15

Having lived in small towns and large cities in the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, and Midwest, and after spending a year traveling around the U.S. with my family, I've seen first-hand that Americans have much more in common than not. I've also gotten to experience some of the cultural differences, subtle and not-so-subtle, real and not-so-real, that exist in various parts of the country.

Some of those differences are being discussed in a viral thread on Twitter. Self-described "West coaster" Jordan Green kicked it off with an observation about East coasters being kind and West coasters being nice, which then prompted people to share their own social experiences in various regions around the country.

Green wrote:

"When I describe East Coast vs West Coast culture to my friends I often say 'The East Coast is kind but not nice, the West Coast is nice but not kind,' and East Coasters immediately get it. West Coasters get mad.

Niceness is saying 'I'm so sorry you're cold,' while kindness may be 'Ugh, you've said that five times, here's a sweater!' Kindness is addressing the need, regardless of tone.

I'm a West Coaster through and through—born and raised in San Francisco, moved to Portland for college, and now live in Seattle. We're nice, but we're not kind. We'll listen to your rant politely, smile, and then never speak to you again. We hit mute in real life. ALOT.


So often, we West Coasters think that showing *sympathy* or feeling *empathy* is an act of kindness. Sadly, it's really just a nice act. Kindness is making sure the baby has a hat. (s/o to breenewsome and BlackAmazon)

When you translate this to institutions or policy, you'll see alot of nice words being used, & West Coast liberals/radicals are really good at *sounding* nice. But I've seen organizers & activists from other places get frustrated because nothing happens after ALOT of talk.

Nothing happens after the pronoun check-ins and the icebreakers. It's rare we make sure that people's immediate needs are addressed. There's no kindness. You have people show up to meetings hungry, or needing rides home, and watching those with means freeze when asked to help.

As we begin to 'get back a sense of normalcy' or 're-calibrate' to what people in Blue States™ think is Right™ and Just™, I want us to keep in mind the difference between Niceness and Kindness. If something sounds nice, doesn't mean that it's kind."

Of course, there are genuinely kind and surface nice people everywhere you go, so no one should take these observations as a personal affront to them individually. Generalizations that lead to stereotypes are inherently problematic, and broad strokes like "East coast" and "West coast" are also somewhat meaningless, so they should taken with a grain of salt as well.

In reality, a small town in South Carolina is probably more culturally similar to a small town in Eastern Oregon than it is to New York City, and there are some strong differences between various subregions as well. A more specific cultural comparison, such as "big cities on the West coast vs. big cities in the Northeast" might be more accurate as far as generalizations go, but regardless, many people related to Green's observations based on their own experiences.

To kick things off, a slew of responses poured in from people describing how New Yorkers can be cold on the surface while simultaneously reaching out their hand to help you.

Several people explained that the hustle required to afford the expense of living in New York explains why people skip the niceties. It's about valuing people's time; wasting it with nice words is ruder than just quickly helping out and then moving on.

Many people chimed in with agreement with the original post (even some Canadians confirming that their East/West differences aligned with ours).

"No sense of urgency" is definitely a West coast vibe, but is generally viewed a positive out here. And "inconveniencing everyone around them" might be a subjective observation. Maybe.

Plenty of people with bicoastal experience weighed in with their stories of how their experiences lined up with the basic premise of the thread, though.

Though certainly not universally true, the tendency for West coasters to be more hands-off might extend back to the frontier days. The pioneer and gold rush mindset was necessarily individualistic and self-sufficient. In my experience, West coasters assume you don't need help unless you directly ask for it. But people don't ask because of the individualistic and self-sufficient thing, so automatic helpfulness just hasn't become part of the dominant culture.

Things got even more interesting once the South and Midwest entered the chat.

But the takes on warm/nice/kind thing varied quite a bit.

One thing that seems quite clear if you read through the various responses to the thread is that specific states and cities seem to have their own cultures that don't break down as simply as East/West/Midwest/South. There's an entire book about how the U.S. can actually be subdivided into 11 different regions that are almost like nations unto themselves. Even this map from 1940 included 34 different cultural regions in the U.S.

And don't even get a Californian started on the differences between Northern CA, Southern CA, and the Central Valley. "Culture" can even be narrowed down even to specific neighborhoods, and people's experiences and perceptions vary for all kinds of reasons, so once again, generalizations only go so far before they fall flat.

If you're curious about what the data says about all of this, a cursory search of surveys about which states are the kindest brings up a fairly mixed bag, but people seem to find Minnesota quite friendly. A Wallethub ranking of charitability by state based on 19 factors including volunteerism also placed Minnesota at number one, followed by Utah, Maryland, Oregon, and Ohio. Pretty hard to make a regional generalization with those states.

Then again, there's the whole "Minnesota nice" thing, which brings us full circle back to the original thread.

So many elements go into the culture of a place, from population density to the history of settlement to the individual personalities of the people who make someplace their home. And nothing is set in stone—the atmosphere of a place can change over time, as anyone who's visited a city a decade or two apart can attest.

One thing that's true, no matter where we live, is that we play a role in molding the culture of our immediate surroundings. If we want where we live to be friendlier, we can be friendlier ourselves. If we want to see people help one another, we can serve as that example. We might stand out, but we also might inspire others who yearn for the same thing.

"Be the change" might seem a bit cliche, but it truly is the key to shifting or world in the way we want it to go, no matter what part of the country—or the world—we live in.


This article originally appeared on 01.22.21