It is my belief is that when the body is exposed to toxins through the food we eat, air we breathe, or skin contact, it has to get rid of them. The body does this through elimination processes that involve such organs as the skin, kidneys, GI tract, and liver. Some toxins have a difficult time being excreted as they adhere inside certain cells within the body. As the body is inundated with these chemicals it overloads these detoxification systems leading to further toxin build up which places stress on the organs responsible for detoxification as well as other organs in the body. This toxic build leads to a situation where optimal health is compromised. There is an understanding that it is not understood how all the different chemicals we are exposed to interact with each other in the human body. This interaction could be cumulative and compound negatively on the body. Although it is impossible today to avoid all chemicals in the environment we should work to significantly reduce exposure as an individual and for the environment we will someday pass to our children.
What is organic?
The word “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are produced that reduces the amount of chemicals released into the environment as well as natural resources to produce the food. The production of organic food means:
No antibiotics are used.
No growth hormones are used.
Products are made without using most conventional pesticides.
No fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge is used.
No use of ionizing radiation.
No genetic engineering.
As a result organic farming practices reduce chemical exposure not only to the consumer but, to the farmer as well.
With the increasing demand for organic products the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was passed as part of the 1990 Farm Bill. The OFPA provided that the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) develop national standards for organic products.
The USDA administers these standards through the National Organic Program (NOP) which was created in October 2002. The NOP reorganized into three branches as of February 4, 2008 due to the growth in the organic industry. The three branches are now Standards Development and Review, Accreditation, Auditing and Training, and Compliance and Enforcement. The USDA accredits agencies through the NOP to certify companies that are in compliance with organic standards.
The OFPA set up the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The role of the NOSB is to advise the secretary of agriculture on the development and maintenance of organic standards and regulations. One of their roles is to recommend changes to the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances in the organic food industry.
The OFPA and the NOP assure consumers that the organic agricultural products they purchase are produced, processed, and certified to consistent national standards and are labeled accordingly. The labeling requirements are based on a percentage of organic ingredients in a product.
The following are the categories indicated by the USDA and can be found at this address.
100 percent organic
Products labeled “100 percent organic” must only contain organically produced ingredients excluding water and salt. Any processing aids must be organic. The certifying agent must be listed on the product information panel. The USDA ORGANIC seal may be used on product packaging and advertisement.
Products labeled “organic” must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients excluding water and salt. Products meeting this requirement may display these terms and percentage of organic content on their principle display panel. The certifying agent must be listed on the product information panel. The USDA ORGANIC seal may be used on product packaging and advertisements. The ingredients that are organic must be specified in the ingredient list on the information panel.
Made with organic
Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients can use the phrase “made with organic ingredients”. The percentage of organic content and the certifying agent mark may be used on the principle display panel. The USDA seal cannot be used anywhere on the package. The ingredients that are organic must be specified in the ingredient list on the information panel.
At least 70 percent organic ingredients
These products may use “made with organic (insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories)”. The USDA organic seal must not be anywhere on the product label. The ingredients that are organic must be specified in the ingredient list on the information panel. The certifying agent must be listed on the product information panel.
Less than 70 percent organic ingredients
These products must list the organic ingredients on the ingredients as organic and the percentage of organic ingredients. The USDA organic seal must not be anywhere on the product label.
NOP does not cover non-food products. Therefore, personal care products such as soap, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, and make-up do not fall under NOP rules and regulations. At this point such products can have the word “organic” in the product name or brand name and it may not be organic unless it has the USDA ORGANIC symbol on the label. A person needs to keep themselves educated and read labels looking for synthetic ingredients many of which are petrochemicals.
Some of the ingredients to avoid are:
Parabens – This may appear as Ethylparaben or Methylparaben or some other long name ending in paraben. This chemical is used as a preservative in body care products and in some food. They have been shown to mimic estrogen in the body and have been found in high concentrations in breast cancer tumors. Methylparaben appears to have a damaging effect to the skin when it is exposed to UVB.
BHT/BHA – These petrochemicals inhibit the oxidation of fats thereby decreasing rancidity of the fat in foods and personal care products. It is currently inconclusive as to whether these chemicals cause cancer. Some studies indicate a link to cancer. However, Vitamin E can be used for the same purpose without the possible side effects.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – This is a detergent found in many personal care products. It has been found to irritate the skin. It can also dry out the skin as it removes lipids. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can combine with other nitrogen containing chemicals to form Nitrosamine a known carcinogen (cancer causing). Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl ether sulfate can cause irritation to the skin in some people.
Acylamide – Increasing evidence that acrylamide may be a risk factor for cancer.
Phenol or Carbolic acid – Phenol is corrosive and prolonged contact may cause dermatitis. Phenol vapors can be corrosive to the respiratory tract, eyes, and skin. A concern with cosmetics is that phenol is absorbed through the skin as readily as it is inhaled. It may cause heart problems, convulsions, and coma. Children may be more susceptible to Phenol’s harmful effects. Exposure to phenol can be fatal.
1, 4, Dioxane – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers 1,4-dioxane as a possible human carcinogen. The state of California has labeled 1, 4, Dioxane as a carcinogen. This chemical is also known to be a possible toxin to the kidneys, nervous system, and respiratory tract according the California EPA. Dioxane can be found in some cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, soaps, bubble baths, and detergents. However, it is not listed on the ingredient label as it is created from a type of chemical reaction called “ethoxylation during the production of the product. As this chemical is easily absorbed through the skin, contamination of the product should be avoided when the following words or part of the word on the ingredient label contains: “myreth,” “oleth,” “laureth,” “ceteareth,” any other “eth,” “PEG,” “polyethylene,” “polyethylene glycol,” “polyoxyethylene,” or “oxynol,”.
Toluene – Adverse nervous system affects. This chemical may be linked adversely to the health of the fetus.
I hope this information helps arm you with information when it comes to understanding the word “organic” and what it actually means to your well-being.
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Okamoto Y, Hayashi T, Matsunami S, Ueda K, Kojima N. “Combined activation of methyl paraben by light irradiation and esterase metabolism toward oxidative DNA damage”. Chem Res Toxicoi. 2008 Aug; 21(8)1594-9. Epub Jul 26
Marrakchi S, Maibach.“Sodium lauryl sulfate-induced irritation in the human face: regional and age-related differences”. Skin Pharmacology Physiology. 2006; 19(3):177-80. Epub 2006 May 4.
Kahl R, Kappus. “Toxicology of the synthetic antioxidants BHA and BHT in comparison with the natural antioxidant vitamin E”. Z Lebensm Unters Forsch. 1993 Apr; 194(4):329-38