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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).

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Upworthy is sharing this letter from Myra Sack on the anniversary of the passing of her daughter Havi Lev Goldstein. Loss affects everyone differently and nothing can prepare us for the loss of a young child. But as this letter beautifully demonstrates, grief is not something to be ignored or denied . We hope the honest words and feelings shared below can help you or someone you know who is processing grief of their own. The original letter begins below:


Dear Beauty,

Time is crawling to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the day you took your final breath on my chest in our bed. We had a dance party the night before. Your posse came over. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, closest friends, and your loving nanny Tia. We sat in the warm kitchen with music on and passed you from one set of arms to another. Everyone wanted one last dance with you. We didn’t mess around with only slow songs. You danced to Havana and Danza Kuduro, too. Somehow, you mustered the energy to sway and rock with each of us, despite not having had anything to eat or drink for six days. That night, January 19th, we laughed and cried and sang and danced. And we held each other. We let our snot and our tears rest on each other’s shoulders; we didn’t wipe any of them away. We ate ice cream after dinner, as we do every night. And on this night, we rubbed a little bit of fresh mint chocolate chip against your lips. Maybe you’d taste the sweetness.

Reggaeton and country music. Blueberry pancakes and ice cream. Deep, long sobs and outbursts of real, raw laughter. Conversations about what our relationships mean to each other and why we are on this earth.


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What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

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