Let’s talk about one of the most ubiquitous ingredients in the shampoos you (and millions of other people) are buying, cocamide DEA.

Cocamide DEA is cocamide diethanolamine. It is used to thicken the shampoo, a body wash, or a facial cleanser and give it a nice goopy consistency. That’s it. It serves no other purpose than creating a nice look to the product. It doesn’t help the health of your skin, it doesn’t assist in cleansing, it’s all about marketing gimmicks when it comes to cocamide DEA.

Product manufacturers believe that the thicker is the product, the more appealing it seems to the customers. Maybe they think the product is more “rich” or “nutritious” or “natural”. But there’s nothing natural about cocamide DEA.

Most of the time, smart marketers will state that cocamide DEA will be sourced from coconuts. That’s true: coconut oil is mixed with diethanolamine to make cocamide DEA. It’s then used as a emulsifier and a surfactant.

Diethanolamine may hide under such names as Lauramide diethanolamine, Coco Diethanolamide, coconut oil amide of diethanolamine, Lauramide DEA, Lauric diethanolamide, Lauroyl diethanolamide, and Lauryl diethanolamide.

Chemophiles also insist, and here I am quoting LUSH Cosmetics who are very protective about their parabens, synthetic dyes, and artificial fragrances in their “homemade” skincare, that “cocamide DEA has been safely used for more than fifty years.”

And how about skyrocketing rates of allergies and cancer in the last fifty years? I am sure that cocamide DEA, as well as its relatives triethanolamine and diethanolamine, parabens, and phthalates, is partially to blame. These ingredients do not make us healthy, but they make the manufacturers richer. And speaking of health…

DEA and its variants are suspected of increasing the risk of cancer. DEA can combine with amines present in cosmetic formulations to form nitrosamines (N-nitrosodiethanolamine), which are known to be highly carcinogenic.

 Studies also show that DEAs (including cocamide DEA) directly inhibits fetal brain development in laboratory studies by blocking the absorption of choline, a nutrient required for brain development and maintenance.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers have discovered that when DEA was applied to the skin of pregnant mice at concentrations similar to those found in shampoos, the fetuses showed inhibited cell growth and increased cell death in an area of the brain responsible for memory – the hippocampus.

“I don’t believe any woman who’s been using these products needs to have a sleepless night about having caused harm to her child,” said Dr. Steven Zeisel, Kenan Distinguished University Professor of nutrition in UNC’s schools of public health and medicine and associate dean for research in the School of Public Health.

“At this point it is a caution,” he added. “But it would probably be prudent to look at labels and try to limit exposure until we know more.”

DEA is also associated with miscarriages in laboratory studies. “We saw smaller and smaller litters as we gave higher doses. No one has ever noted that before,” Zeisel said.

“This agent not only affects brain development, but at higher doses probably affects some other development in a way that is fatal to the fetus,” he said.

So that’s what diethanolamine does to animals. But what about humans? An average bottle of shampoo contains up to 10 ml diethanolamine. When we use this shampoo, we massage the diethanolamine into our scalp, pouring in hot water to increase absorption. After 30 shampoos, we are exposed to 10 ml (0.3 oz) of pure, undiluted diethanolamine – more that poor lab mice were!

So stop thinking like a mouse. Just because it appears on a bottle with the word “organic” on it, it’s not organic. What’s worse, it’s carcinogenic and it damages your brain. Be proactive and shield yourself and your loved ones from harmful chemicals like cocamide DEA – they aren’t doing you any good!


Baby toys can be dangerous...

Baby toys can be dangerous...

Last week, a report by the Michigan-based Ecology Center found more than one-third of toys tested contained toxic levels of lead, mercury, cadmium or other harmful materials.



The ecologists who want to build a toxic-toy database at HealthyToys.org, tested 1,500 bestselling toys currently on shelves across the USA and  Canada.

Toxic toys tested showed levels of lead far in excess of the 600 parts-per-million laid out by the federal government: some toys contained lead as high at 50,000 ppm.

Mattel has settled a lawsuit brought by 39 states after some its toys were found to contain dangerous levels of lead.

Mattel will make the $12 million payment by January 30, 2009, and it will be divided among all U.S. states.

The settlement also requires that Mattel follow more stringent standards for the use of lead in toys beginning November 30, 2008, as well as maintaining records for four years regarding any subcontractors that manufacture parts of any of its toys.

The toy recall affected about 2 million toys between August 2 and October 25, 2007.

The toys in question carried Mattell and Fisher-Price brand names and were manufactured by contractors in China.

Earlier this year, a report surfaced showing that some deadly toys had resurfaced with new names.

Breastfeeding can protect an immature baby from urinary tract infections, Dr. Itzhak Levy and his colleagues found.

They performed a case controlled study that was conducted in a tertiary care neonatal intensive care unit between 1995 and 2003. Their study group included all premature infants less than 37 weeks gestation diagnosed with a urinary tract infection.

It was found that the main organism present was a klebsiella species. Baby boys were found to be more prone to urinary infections.

Breastfeeding  was associated with a lower risk of infection with a 95% confidence interval. Doctors explain that maternal immunoglobulins passed through breast milk must have a protective effect.

We wish you a non-toxic Christmas!It may be the season to be jolly but little do we know that Christmas also brings the potential for poisonings, according to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center experts. Here’s a checklist of toxic dangers that lurk in our homes as we get ready all those Christmas crackers and garlands.


It’s not that we are going to let babies drink it. But ethyl alcohol and denatured alcohol is also found in gifts such as perfumes and colognes. ER sees more children due to alcohol poisoning during the holiday season. Kids may drink unfinished cocktails lying around after holiday parties. Because of their small weight, babies are more likely to get alcohol poisoning than are adults.


Children who play with the leaves of this plant and then rub their eyes may experience redness and irritation. Eating poinsettias can cause gastrointestinal and local irritation.


Berries of mistletoe contain toxins that can affect the nervous system, blood pressure and the heart. Babies usually only ingest the berries in small amounts (i.e., one or two berries), so there is no documented cause for alarm or necessity for treatment.   


The berries of a few varieties of holly plants are reported to be poisonous. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a slowing down of breathing and heart rate can occur after eating holly berries. Children might also eat the leaves of holly plants. These could also contain potentially toxic chemicals.


This plant allegedly contains toxic solanine. Reported signs and symptoms of solanine toxicity include dilated pupils, salivation, nausea, vomiting, headache, bloating, diarrhea, respiratory depression, central nervous system depression, confusion, irregular heartbeat, coma and death. It is unclear how many Jerusalem cherries would have to be ingested to produce any of these symptoms.


Very little is known about how poisonous this plant is to humans, but it can sure cause allergies.


Some ingredients, such as salicylates in oil of wintergreen, menthol, camphor, eucalyptol, and other oils and flavorings, can be extremely toxic if ingested.


Dry ice is composed of carbon dioxide, and skin contact can cause tissue damage, and burns to the mouth can occur from ingestion. Flush the skin with lukewarm water if direct exposure occurs, and give lukewarm water to drink if a solid piece is swallowed.

As a reminder: if anyone has inquiries about other products in their home that may be hazardous, they are welcome to call Drug and Poison Information Center (DPIC) toll free at 1-800-222-1222 any time of night or day.

not meant to be togetherMothers Exposed to Hair Spray on the Job More Likely to Have Sons with Hypospadias

Are you pregnant and using hair sprays? Consider this: Maternal exposure to hair sprays, some of which contain chemicals known as phthalates, has been linked to hypospadias in newborn boys.

So not run, not walk to your bathroom, take that can of hair spray and put it in the trash can.

Yes, sure, you can continue using that hair spray, especially if you don’t fancy having any grandchildren.

Here’s the shocking info in a nutshell: phthalates in hair sprays, fragrances and other synthetic skincare are damaging boy’s genitals while still in womb.

Hypospadias is a birth defect of the male urethra that results in an abnormally placed urinary opening. It is one of the most common urogenital congenital anomalies among baby boys.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, phthalates, most often diethyl phthalate (DEP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), are found in many beauty products including deodorants, fragrances, and nail and hair products. They are most abundant in fragrances and hair sprays.

Studies have linked the phthalates with androgen-lowering activities, abnormal Leydig cell function, and reproductive tract malformations including hypospadias. Since phthalates are endocrine-disrupting, they’ve been also linked to higher risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

The case–control study included 471 hypospadias cases referred to surgeons, and 490 randomly selected birth controls, born over a 21-month period in South East England.

Sons of women working in industries where there is exposure to phthalates—including hairdressers, beauty therapists, research chemists, line operators, pharmaceutical operators, electrical assemblers, and factory assistants—had a 2- to 3-times greater risk for hypospadias.  

It’s still possible to slightly offset the damage done to boy’s genitals by phthalates: same study found that folate supplementation in the first three months of pregnancy was associated with a 36% reduction in risk of hypospadias.

This is the first definitive study about the harm of phthalates to humans. The study appeared in peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).

baby5It’s a well-known fact: 40 percent to 50 percent of pregnant women experience back pain, but we all hope it will go after the delivery, like the rest of pregnancy-related discomforts such as heartburn and the close friendship with the loo.

Actually, your chances of having back pain again increase threefold after the baby is born.

“At first, new moms are lifting seven to 10 pounds 50 times a day, and by 12 months, they likely are chasing and lifting a 17-pound child. Two years later, mothers will be lifting a 25-pound to 30-pound child,” Baltimore orthopaedic spine surgeon Alan M. Levine, MD, says.

Here are ten great tips to prevent back pain in new moms. The tips are kindly provided by Dr. Levine, editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons – and comments in italics come from the real mom, yours truly.

1. Begin exercising soon after delivery to restore abdominal and back muscle tone. Ten minutes of stretching exercises on the floor each day will restore hip and back flexibility. Dr. Levine suggests that you exercise when your baby is taking a nap, but, frankly, such tip can only come from a man.

When baby’s taking a nap, it’s our chance to strain our back even more by cleaning, mopping, doing laundry and all other things that comprise the life of a normal woman. Not exercising. That belongs to our pre-baby past, along with six-inch heels and 20-dollar lipsticks.

Please note: women who delivered by Caesarian-section (C-section) should wait six weeks or until they get the permission of their obstetrician before they begin exercising.

2. Try to get back to your normal weight within six weeks after giving birth. The risk of back pain is greater among young, overweight women, according to Dr. Levine.

Six weeks? That simply is not realistic and plain dangerous. You cannot shed that much weight in such a short time, especially if you are breastfeeding. It took me nine months to accumulate those ten kilos. Normally, women get back to their pre-pregnancy weight in about a year after giving birth, that’s of course, if you don’t go the lipo route.

3. Do not stretch your arms out to pick up the baby. Bring him/her close to your chest before lifting. Avoid twisting your body. Now, that makes perfect sense.

4. To pick a child up from the floor, bend at your knees (not at your waist), squat down, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your leg muscles. Also a great tip.

5. Remove the high chair tray when you are trying to put the baby in or take the baby out of the high chair. That’s not always possible, but nice point anyway.

6. When picking the child up out of the crib, put the side down and pull the child toward you rather than lifting over the top. Now, that’s really gymnastic,  but I will try.

7. Consider using a “front pack” to carry the baby when you are walking. Again, a tip from a man’s world. Front carriers are notorious for making back hurt like mad. Even the most ergonomic ones. Wrap fabric slings are a bit gentler.

8. Do not carry a child on your hip; this overloads the back muscles. Completely true.

9. To avoid upper back pain from breastfeeding, bring the baby to your breast rather than bending over to the baby. Use an upright chair rather than a soft couch. Well-known fact but thanks for reminding.

10. Four-door vehicles are better than two-door vehicles for ease of placing the child in the car seat. With the car seat positioned in the middle of the back seat, do not stand outside the car, reach in and, at arm’s length, try to put the baby in the seat but rather kneel on the back seat to place the baby into the car seat.

Now, that’s a good point – although I cherish my recurring fantasy of having a designer baby seat installed into my dream Porsche.

PregnancyWe’re programming our children to be fat, says the author of a groundbreaking study that found how exposure to a high-fat diet during pregnancy produces permanent changes in the offspring’s brain.

Apparently, eating fatty foods during pregnancy leads to overeating and obesity early in life, according to new research by Rockefeller University scientists.

“We’ve shown that short-term exposure to a high-fat diet in utero produces permanent neurons in the fetal brain that later increase the appetite for fat,” says senior author Sarah F. Leibowitz, who directs the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurobiology at Rockefeller.

“This work provides the first evidence for a fetal program that links high levels of fats circulating in the mother’s blood during pregnancy to the overeating and increased weight gain of offspring after weaning.”

Research in adult animals by Leibowitz and others has shown that circulating triglycerides stimulate brain chemicals known as orexigenic peptides, which in turn spur the animals to eat more.

Scientists also have shown that obese and diabetic mothers produce heavier children and that exposure to fat-rich foods early in life leads to obesity in adulthood.

These studies suggested that food intake and body weight may be programmed during fetal development.

Leibowitz and her colleagues found that pups from the mothers fed high fat diets had, in utero, a much larger number of neurons that produce the appetite-stimulating peptides – and they kept them throughout their lives.

During gestation, the mother’s fat-rich diet also stimulated the proliferation of neuronal precursor cells and their migration to obesity-promoting centers in the brain.

In rats on a balanced diet, these neurons were much fewer in number and appeared much later after birth.

“We believe the high levels of triglycerides that the fetuses are exposed to during pregnancy cause the growth of the neurons earlier and much more than is normal,” says Leibowitz.

The researchers hypothesize that because the mother must prepare her embryos to survive on her diet, they need to be born with the brain mechanisms that allow them to eat and metabolize all the excess fat they are consuming.

“We’re programming our children to be fat,” Leibowitz says.

“I think it’s very clear that there’s vulnerability in the developing brain, and we’ve identified the site of this action where new neurons are being born. We now need to understand how the lipids affect these precursor cells that form these fat-sensitive neurons that live with us throughout life.”

This surprising finding, reported in the Nov. 12 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, provides a key step toward understanding the increased prevalence of childhood obesity during the last 30 years.