The Cocktail Effect of Chemicals

by Karen Hughes on May 20, 2020

If you haven’t heard of the “cocktail effect”, you will soon! No, I’m not speaking of the cocktail you might have 5:00 somewhere. I’m speaking of the cocktail of chemicals we are increasingly being exposed to and the impact they are having on our humanity and environment.

What is the Cocktail Effect?

Similar to when you are mixing a cocktail for drinking, this refers to a continual exposure of individual chemicals which may NOT cause problems on their own, but when combined with other chemicals over time, cause significant harm to our bodies and our environment.

I became interested in this because of the increased disinfecting and sanitization we are doing because of the pandemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and the American Association of Poison Control Center, calls and cases increased substantially during a 3 month period ending March 2020. Read about these Cases.

These are very real cases, caused for the most part unintentionally, by people who were trying to do the right thing.

Why Should You Care?

The Cocktail Effect according to many studies in Europe are pointing toward the cause of increased diabetes, autism, ADHD, cancers and other diseases. Reference1 Reference2

These hidden dangers lurk inside our cans, cleaning solutions, make up, hair care products, plastics, pesticides and yes even clothing. We often are unaware until many years later as they build up in the body.

Candles, for example, often contain synthetic scent that can interact with the respiratory system. Maybe you’ve been impacted by someone wearing cologne or walked into a room with a plug-in and started coughing or felt a headache coming on.

8 Chemicals You Should Know

Learn the chemical names, abbreviated and long form. Understand and take control of your environment. Here are some you will want to become familiar with. (excerpted from Healthline.)

  • BHA/BHT
  • DEA
  • DPB/DMP/DEP
  • Formaldehyde (and it’s releasers)
  • Fragrance
  • Parabens
  • Siloxane
  • Triclosan

Understanding Chemical Ingredients

1. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  • purpose: antioxidant, preservative, stabilizer, fragrance ingredient
  • concerns: skin irritation, hormone disruption
  • found in: lipstick, eye shadow, some petroleum products
2. Diethanolamine (DEA)
  • purpose: pH adjuster, foaming agent
  • concerns: skin irritation, possible organ system toxicity, contamination concerns
  • found in: variety of face makeup and hair products
3. Phthalates dibutyl phthalate (DBP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), and diethyl phthalate (DEP)
  • purpose: plasticizer, solvent, fragrance ingredient
  • concerns: male reproductive system damage
  • found in: nail polish, hair sprays, perfumes, lotions, soaps, shampoos
4. Formaldehyde (formaldehyde releasers: bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, and quaternium-15)
  • purpose: preservative
  • concerns: carcinogenic impurity, skin irritations, high rates of skin allergy reactions, rashes
  • found in: nail products, eyelash glue, hair gel, hair-smoothing products, baby shampoo, body soap, color cosmetics
5. Fragrance (perfume, parfum, essential oil blend, and aroma)
  • purpose: chemical combination of a possible 3,000 ingredients to create scents
  • concerns: skin irritation, allergic reactions, cancer or reproductive toxicity with long-term exposure
  • found in: most personal skincare products
6. Parabens (specifically propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, and isobutyl- parabens)
  • purpose: preservative
  • concerns: hormone-disrupters
  • found in: makeup, moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, facial and shower cleansers, shaving products, and scrubs
7. Siloxane (ingredients ending in -siloxane or -methicone)
  • purpose: softening, smoothing, moisturizing
  • concerns: hormone disrupter
  • found in: hair products, deodorants
8. Triclosan (now being regulated on the market but still in the healthcare environment)
  • purpose: antimicrobial agent
  • concerns: disrupt thyroid and reproductive hormones, bacterial resistance development
  • found in: oral products, shaving products, creams, and color cosmetics

What Can You Do?

Make Swaps… Start inside your home. Make sure that you clear the air. Stop using chemically derived cleansers, sprays or sanitizing solutions. Fragranced sprays, plug-ins, dryer sheets and candles.

Recipes for Swaps

While more and more natural cleaning solutions are coming on the market, often they are very expensive, capitalizing on fear and lack of knowledge. While you may not want to make everything, it’s an easy way to begin and learn more.

It Takes Time

Be patient, just get started, and don’t beat yourself up for not knowing. Even the scientists didn’t know when they were creating the chemical. It’s taken years for these things to develop. Get started now with easy swaps like the recipe above.

Want to learn more about essential oils?

Learning about swaps and using natural plant materials can feel daunting at first. I show you how to integrate these plant medicines easily and effortlessly into your home and lifestyle. Contact me and let’s get started!

Live Well, Be Well and Thrive!


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Hi, I’m Karen!

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