When you see a product such as laundry detergent with the word "Natural" on the label, what does it make you think? Safe? Good for the environment? Ecologically-friendly? Organic? Harmless? Whatever word you think of, most likely you think it is something that you and your family would buy and use.
The other day, I was in the section of my local grocery store where such products can be found. I saw a natural laundry detergent so I picked up a bottle and inspected the ingredients. One of the ingredients which caught my eye was sodium lauryl sulfate. Does this sound like a natural ingredient to you?
So what is sodium lauryl sulfate?
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is commonly used in soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to "foam up." SLS is a foaming agent known as a surfactant. It makes products sudsy and smooth. SLS is an ester of Sulphuric acid. It is also known as "Sulfuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt." It is also used in engine degreasers. Now that sounds natural, doesn't it.
According to The Natural Health Information Centre, possible side effects of SLS include skin irritation, hormone imbalance, eye irritation and possbile eye deformities in children, protein denaturing, and cancer. In fact, SLS is a known mutagen, capable of damaging the genetic material found every cell in your body. As mutagenicity has been strongly linked to cancer, this is a major concern.
Besides detergent, where else might you find SLS in your home? Here is a partial list:
Washing-up liquid / dish soap
Childrens soaps / shampoos
Moisture lotion / Moisturizer
Why do manufacturers use SLS in these products? The reason is simple. It's cheap. Just like High-Fructose Corn Syrup, which is very sweet and very cheap, SLS helps keep product costs down. So, as usual, the word to the wise is caveat emptor. Buyer beware!