Many chemicals are mistakenly linked to serious health effects through various speculations (from many years ago) and not through scientific evidence. As with any chemical, the toxicity of a substance depends on the dose and how often a person is exposed to it.
The following chemicals are considered “toxic” or “unsafe”, and do not, in fact, pose any serious danger to human health.
- Aspartame (artificial sweetener)
Aspartame was once thought to cause cancer, but scientific evidence suggests it does not pose a health risk.
Much of the public concern about this sweetener is based on studies done on mice that have linked it to blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphomas. Both the European (EFSA) and the US (FDA) Food and Drug Administration have discredited these findings, arguing that aspartame is safe for consumption. The real problem with aspartame is that it is found in various (dietary) carbonated beverages which themselves are not healthy at all.
Saccharin was also said to cause cancer, which proved to be inaccurate.
A study of mice in the 1980s claimed that there was a link between saccharin (sweetener) and cancers, and the products containing it had to have a label that “causes cancer in laboratory animals”.
That study was later canceled after scientists proved that mice were already susceptible to bladder cancer. A dozen other studies also found no association between saccharin and cancers. In 2016, this sweetener was removed from the list of cancer-causing ingredients.
- Aluminum in deodorant
Aluminum in deodorants will not cause breast cancer.
In the late 1990s, a viral e-mail message suggested that aluminum causes breast cancer, and that was confirmed by a preliminary study, which later proved to be false.
Evidence suggests that our bodies absorb such a small amount of aluminum from deodorants that it is insufficient to harm the body at all.
- Parabens in make-up
In 2004, a small study linked parabens – make-up preservatives and skin care products – to breast cancer, but the methodology that came to that conclusion was incorrect. The study looked for evidence that there were parabens in existing breast cancer tissue, but did not identify where they came from and whether they contributed to their development.
There are claims that parabens can disrupt the hormone system in a similar way to estrogen, but the usual parabens used in cosmetics are significantly weaker than natural estrogen in the body, so this would not be possible.
No solid evidence has been found that parabens in cosmetics have any effect on human health, and they can actually prevent the formation of harmful bacteria in make-up, lotions or sunscreen.
- Sulphates in shampoos
In the 1990s, sulfates (whose constituents more easily “captured” fat) were considered to be carcinogenic – a theory not supported by scientific evidence.
The only people who need to avoid sulfates are those who already have sensitivity to them.
- MSG will not cause you headaches
In 1968, a biomedical researcher claimed to have had tingling in the limbs and heart palpitations after eating at Chinese restaurants. He claimed that the cause of these symptoms was MSG (monosodium glutamate), which is found in processed meat, chips and canned vegetables.
In the 1990s, the FDA determined that MSG additives were safe for consumption and that conditions such as headache, tingling or tiredness were most likely caused by the ingestion of large quantities of MSG on an empty stomach.