Hair Dye Dangers: harmful chemicals in hair dye and other alternatives

Today, hair dyeing is a no newfound trend but is rather part of an aesthetic or a self-care ritual. Fun fact: Hair dye was accidentally created by William Henry Perkin in his attempt to generate a cure for malaria in 1863. However, do people even know what they put their hair through just to change its color?

The anatomy of hair

The hair strand (shaft) are made of three parts:

Medulla: this is the core of hair.


Cortex: the medulla is covered by a thick layer of cells containing keratin proteins, moisture and melanin, all of which contribute to our natural hair texture and color.

Cuticle: this is a protective layer which is made up of overlapping scales.

the structure of a hair shaft

The types of hair dyes

There are 3 major types of hair dyes:

Temporary dye:

Only sticks to the surface of the cuticle, and will be easily washed off with a shampoo wash.

Semi-permanent dye:

This dye is made up of tiny pigment molecules that slip by the cuticle and stick to the cortex of the hair. The dye will be washed off after multiple shampoo washes.

Permanent dye:

As they are made to last, permanent hair dye contain a lot of chemicals. In particular, alkaline chemicals such as ammonia breaks up the overlapping scale structure of the cuticle by softening them. Then a developer is used to oxidize the melanin in the cortex, turning it colorless. The developers also create the chemical reaction that brings in the new color to the hair. These new pigments are then trapped beneath the cuticle, and are resistant towards shampoo washes.

How are hair dyes regulated?

According to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), they cannot take action against hair dye corporations if the product contains harmful ingredients that are listed as warning labels. Coal-tar hair dyes in particular, do not need approval from the FDA as long as they have caution labels.

Fun fact: Although hair dye colouring materials are mostly from petroleum, FDA still keeps its original name (Coal-tar), which originated from the fact that colouring materials were by-products of coal industries.

The EU on the other hand, has more simple and strict regulations. As hair dyes are categorized as cosmetics, the manufacturer must be able to provide evidence of scientific assessment on the product, showing that substances used would not cause any harm to consumers. Currently, there are more than 180 ingredients banned in the cosmetic department.

Do hair dyes cause cancer?

We don’t exactly know. According to the American Cancer Society, the research on hair dye and it’s correlation to cancer is very mixed.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) shows that workers who are exposed to hair dyes such as hairdressers and barbers have an increased risk of getting bladder cancer. However, the research also shows that there is no consistent increase of bladder cancer in people who personally uses hair dye.

The results of blood-related cancers are also mixed. The research shows that there is a higher risk of lymphoma in hair dye users, especially if the use began before the 1980s, or if the person uses dark hair dyes. However there are also contradictory results, hence, there is no definite answer.

The possible reason why darker hair dyes may increase the risk of blood-related cancer could be because they contain more coloring agents and carcinogen chemicals.

The National Toxicology Program also conducted research on hair dyes (and chemical straightener) and its possibility of being a carcinogen. They found that women who regularly use hair dye has a 9% more chance of contracting breast cancer compared to those who don’t use hair dye. Interestingly, black women who use permanent hair dye have a 60% higher chance of contracting breast cancer while white women has only 8%.

As suggested by Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology Group, “the dye that’s marketed to white women might be different than the dye that’s marketed to black women just because of the texture of the hair…maybe the application process is different, or the amount of dye that’s needed to be used is different.”

However the evidences is not credible enough to pinpoint that hair dye is a direct cause of breast cancer. Especially since the women that were experimented on had sisters who have breast cancer, doubling the chances of developing the cancer, “We are exposed to many things that could potentially contribute to breast cancer, and it is unlikely that any single factor explains a woman’s risk.

Overall, to quote the conclusion of the research conducted by the IARC

“Cancer in humans:

  • There is limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of occupational exposures as a hairdresser or barber.
  • There is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of personal use of
    hair colorants.”

“Overall evaluation:

  • Occupational exposures as a hairdresser or barber are probably carcinogenic to humans
    Personal use of hair colorants is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans”

Just as the IARC, the NTP have not classified hair dye as carcinogenic, however they have laid out other health affects and have named harmful chemicals in the product.

Harmful Chemicals in hair dye and it’s effects

Triclosan: Disrupts estrogen hormones. In 2017, the FDA declared Triclosan to be harmful. According to Clinical and Experimental Allergy, they found that children exposed to triclosan has an increased chance of asthma, allergies, eczema and rhinitis.

Ammonia: Ammonia irritates the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. In addition, this chemical damages the hair cuticle, leaving it dry, brittle and unhealthy.

P-Phenylenediamine (PPD): Many hair dye users who looks for alternative hair dye tends to look for Ammonia-free dyes. However, according to Dr Rohit Batra of
Dermaworld Skin & Hair Clinics, allergies and irritations still form as PPD is the real culprit.

Lead acetate: Commonly found in men’s hair dye, this chemical is harmful to skin contact, when inhaled, and is suspected of causing cancer, genetic defect and fertility problems. This substance has been prohibited by the European Commission for use in cosmetic products.

Toluene: This chemical not only can cause temporary effects such as headaches and skin irritations, but it can be linked to fertility and pregnancy problems and respiratory complications.

Advice: If you want to die your hair

If you’re looking to dye your hair a natural dark colour such as black, brown or burgundy. Stick to henna hair dyes! Henna works as a natural alternative to permanent hair dye. It doesn’t involve a chemical process but rather the natural pigment (lawsone) coats itself to the hair shaft, migrating through the gaps of the cuticle, binding itself to the keratin, making it resistant to hair washes.

Henna is also used to make beautiful body art

In addition, henna also gives the hair a lot of benefits. It protects the cuticles, keeping the hair healthy, moisturized, and prevents the hair from ageing. Just remember to be cautious of the henna you’re buying as it may have (PPD) or other harmful ingredients, look out for the ones that are 100% organic.

If you absolutely want a fresh hair color, opt for temporary or semi-permanent hair dyes. These dyes have less damaging ingredients and does not usually involve bleaching of the hair. A misconception is that staying with safe hair dyes means you cannot play with fun colors. However, temporary hair dye brands specifically formulate their dye to work with dark hair to achieve the vibrant look.


References:

 “Hair Dyes | FDA.” 30 Oct. 2018, https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products/hair-dyes. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

 “Good to know about hair dyes – ECHA.” https://chemicalsinourlife.echa.europa.eu/good-to-know-about-hair-dyes. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

“Hair Dyes – American Cancer Society.” https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/hair-dyes.html. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

“OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURES OF HAIRDRESSERS AND ….” https://monographs.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/mono99-17.pdf. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

“Cosmetics and Hair Dye – National Institute of Environmental ….” https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/cosmetics_and_hair_dye_508.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.

 “Permanent Hair Dye and Straighteners May Increase Breast ….” https://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsroom/releases/2019/december4/index.cfm. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.

“Triclosan Exposure and Allergic Sensitization in Norwegian ….” 12 Nov. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3515701/. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.

“Hair dye reactions : Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms and ….” 2 Feb. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKkAHhK5qcs. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.

Tattoo Taboo: Think before you Ink

Tattooing is a widespread art and tradition practiced all around the world, with its earliest practice dating back around 3400-3100 BC. For an age old industry packed with culture and heritage, not a lot about it is actually known. 

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tattoo inks are not regulated due to the fact that there are other public health priorities and a lack of evidence behind hypothesized safety problems associated with tattoo inks. This leads to the issue of unregulated tattoo inks in different countries. The General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) in the EU lacks strict regulations on tattoo inks as they are mostly imported from the US, while permanent make up inks are generally manufactured in Europe.

Minimalist tattoos

‘Tattoos cause skin cancer’ – Myth or Fact?

It’s kind of both. First of all, there is no scientific research that shows the correlation between tattoos and skin cancer, so no, tattoos do not cause skin cancer. However, there is evidence that shows some tattoo ink have been found to contain carcinogenic chemicals. 

According to a survey conducted by Swiss regulators, 7% of 229 of tattoo inks are found to contain formaldehyde – a carcinogen recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. 24% of tattoo inks are found to contain benzisothiazolinone, and methylisothiazolinone in 8%. These preservative chemicals can cause skin irritation, itchy rash and even chemical burns.

Research conducted by Joint Research Centre also found that tattoo inks, particularly black inks, contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The results show most of the PAHs are carcinogens and toxic to the cells in the dermis.

PAHs are a class of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline. We are exposed to it in our daily lives when breathing in air contaminated with motor vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke or eating grilled or charred foods. In addition, workers who have been exposed to large amounts of PAHs from skin contact have been found to develop blood and liver abnormalities.

Colored inks are as bad as black inks – perhaps even worse?

A survey analyzed 226 tattoo inks, and results showed that tattoo ink contains up to 15 heavy metals including titanium, iron, chromium, copper, zirconium, manganese, bromine. A report by Bioelements and Health Unit Italian Ministry for Health Roma categorized the heavy metals into different colorants and their health effects were reported to vary from mild irritations to harming of the brain.

The irreversible damages

Upon lacking regulations on tattoo inks, the FDA pinpoints a common problem with getting a tattoo – dissatisfaction. Even with advanced medical technology, tattoo removal laser treatment is not a holy grail procedure that just ‘erases’ mistakes.  It is painful, time consuming and costly. The FDA even stated that ‘complete removal without scarring may be impossible.’ 

According to Health Harvard Publishing, the best number for ‘clearing’ is only 75%, the tattoos instead of disappearing, could turn darker. Overall, there are many factors with this treatment.  Permanent makeup in the eye and lip is extremely hard to remove. It is harder for dark-skinned patients as the treatment could leave white spots. Wavelength of the lasers used has to be limited e.t.c

Tattoo hazards includes

  • Allergic reactions 
  • Skin infections
  • Granuloma – inflammation that forms around tattoo ink, these nodules are formed because the body detects foreign materials – the tattoo ink
  • Keloid formation – raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue, keloids occur more as a result of tattoo removal.
  • Bloodborne diseases – improper use of equipment can contract various bloodborne diseases e.g. hepatitis B, hepatitis C
  • MRI complications – during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams, tattoos can interfere with the quality of images or cause swelling or burning

It gets deeper

As mentioned above, tattoos do not only harm the skin. Harming of the skin is a red flag to begin with – Damaging of the biggest defense organ of the body means the body on the inside is not fully protected and is vulnerable. If the ink particles do not stay put, it gets transported directly inside the body through the bloodstream and the lymphatic system.  Making the whole body endangered overall.

Colored tattoos

Advice: If you’re looking to getting a tattoo

  • Avoid cheap and uncertified tattoo parlors and tattoo inks
  • Do a lot of research and go to a reputable shop. Consult the artist if you have any questions or concerns

Fun fact:

  • The oldest tattoo was discovered in 1991 on an alpine mummy called Ötzi, who was believed to live around 3400-3100 BC. His ‘tattoo’ is not naturally inked by a needle, but through a painful process of rubbing charcoal onto fine cuts in the skin.
  • Pigments found in tattoo inks can be repurposed into textiles, plastics, or products in the automotive industry
  • In 2007, the top 2 tattoo ink manufacturers started to include warning labels on their products as a result of a lawsuit by the American Environmental Safety Institute. The ink was shown to contain heavy metals.

References:

 “Tattoos & Permanent Makeup: Fact Sheet | FDA.” 24 Aug. 2020, https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products/tattoos-permanent-makeup-fact-sheet. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “Safety of tattoos and permanent make-up: Final report | EU ….” 26 Jul. 2019, https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/safety-tattoos-and-permanent-make-final-report. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “Safety of tattoos and permanent make-up State of play and ….” https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC96808/wp2_report_on_tattoos_pubsy.pdf. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “Tattoo inks contain polycyclic aromatic … – PubMed.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20545755/. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) Fact Sheet – EPA.” https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-03/documents/pahs_factsheet_cdc_2013.pdf. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “A Survey of Metals Found in Tattoo Inks – Scientific Research ….” https://www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=79670. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

 “Heavy Metals in Tattoo Inks – Präsentation vom 6. Juni … – BfR.” https://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/343/heavy-metals-in-tattoo-inks.pdf. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

“Tattoos: Understand risks and precautions – Mayo Clinic.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/tattoos-and-piercings/art-20045067. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

“Tattoos: Leaving their mark – Harvard Health Publishing I Harvard Medical School” https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/tattoos-leaving-their-mark. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020

Holi powder is toxic to you and the environment

Famously known as the festival of color, Holi is the most vibrant Hindu festival. Celebrated around early March, people come together to celebrate spring, nature in all its finery, love and new life in a flurry of dancing, singing, and throwing colored powder and water. However, despite this lighthearted and colorful celebration, Holi powder has had a bad rep for containing toxic compounds that could harm the human body and the environment. With roots in Hindu culture, Holi is celebrated around the world spreading as far as North America, South America and Europe. However, other celebratory events such as color runs also feature colored powders with a toxic formula similar to Holi powder.

Synthetic Holi powder is an irritant

According to India’s National Council of Science Muse, Holi color powders were derived from natural ingredients such as berries, flowers, spices. Tumeric powder was used to get the color yellow, red was derived from the hibiscus flower while Heena was used to obtained green color, according to Alive Wellness Clinic.

Holi powder that was once derived from all natural ingredients have now been swapped for commercial products laden with harmful industrial dyes. These synthetic powders offer brighter and more vibrant colors, and are cheaper to produce compared to the ones derived from plant dyes. The lack of manufacture regulations for Holi powders have since turned this fun celebration into a recipe for disaster.

Even though some powders are labeled “organic” and / or “natural”, it is misleading as they only refer to one part of the color. One part of the color may be derived from an all natural source but mixed in silica or other substances, which is carcinogenic

Unregulated ingredient compounds such as lead oxide, cobalt nitrate, indigo, zinc salts, copper sulphate, mercury sulfate, and aluminum bromide, malachite green, rhodamine and gentian violet are used to make darker shades such as black blue, green, red, and silver Holi colors. Sometimes, mica dust and glass powder are added to give the colors an extra shine. These contaminants, some of which are carcinogens, can cause potential complications such as dermatitis and eczema through contact with sensitive parts of our body such as skin and our eyes, and through inhalation.

According to the Baby Center, here are some health effects of some specific ingredients.

  • Chromium: Can cause bronchial asthma, allergies.
  • Nickel: Can cause dermatitis pneumonia.
  • Cadmium: Can cause weak and brittle bones (Itai Itai disease).
  • Zinc: Can lead to fever.
  • Iron: Can cause skin sensitivity to light.
  • Mica (abeer): This is a shiny powder used to give colours a metallic look. It can cause skin allergies and irritation.

Holi powder harms the environment

A study conducted by the University of Rajasthan and Jaipur National University researched the effects of colored powder on water and soil, and found that the complex structure of polymers in artificial colors makes it almost impossible to decompose biologically. Furthermore, other substances such as acids, mica, glass powder and alkalis aren’t degradable under natural conditions as well, hence it will seep into waste water for a while. Besides that, bacteria is found to “decolorize, transform and mineralize colored soil and water in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions,” according to Daily Mail.

Safety

  • Experts advise people participating in this activity to wear sunglasses, swim goggles and/ or a hat to protect their eyes.
  • Applying petroleum jelly, oil or moisturizer can help reduce absorption of color on skin and hair as well as make it easier for the color to come off later
  • Refrain from using detergent, kerosene, spirit, nail polish remover, alcohol or acetone to remove the colors as these are strong irritants that could break down the protective skin barrier. Instead, use normal bathing soap and moisturize skin after.
  • Governments around the world should impose bans to prohibit manufacturing and tighten regulations regarding chemicals used in Holi powder.

Are diapers toxic for your baby?

Do you know the chemical composition of the diapers used by babies every day? When I was pregnant with my baby girl, I started to think of this question, as I definitely don’t want to put bad chemicals against my baby’s skin 24 hours a day. Some of the chemicals in the diapers are irritants that may cause diaper rash and many parents will inevitably worry about whether the chemical components in the diapers will affect the baby’s skin. Let’s look at their ingredients and find out if they are safe.

Overview of diaper parts

The basic structure of all diapers are the same. The outermost layer of the diaper is a polyethylene film, which is the same material as the plastic film. The inner layer that touches the baby’s skin is usually polypropylene, which is also a common substance you can find in thermal undergarment. These two substances are harmless to the body. Some brands of diapers use aloe vera and vitamin E, both of which are common ingredients found in diaper rash creams.

The middle absorbent layer of a diaper contains wood pulp (usually chlorine for bleaching) and a polymer water-absorbing resin (SAP). The polymer resin is a compound of sodium polyacrylate, which usually absorbs water up to 30 times its own weight. It has been used since the early 1980s, and it has made the diaper thinner while effectively keeping the baby’s buttocks dry.

Watch out for perfumes and dyes in diapers!

Many cartoon characters and other images on the outside of diapers are made with dyes. Some diapers have a perfume smell, which usually contains citral, and this compound is made from lemon and orange oil. These chemical components in diapers generally do not cause any harm to your baby’s health. However, some babies are allergic to dyes and perfume scents of citral or other perfumes, so there will be some discomfort for babies. If your baby have these allergic problems, you can try a different brand which does not have too much dyes and chemicals.

It is the parents’ responsibility to choose harmless products for our babies, if you want to know more about ingredients in diapers and other babies products, I highly recommend you to visit 1Source or other health apps to analyze your baby’s products. 1Source database has over 500,000 products and ingredients in their database, and it uses Potential Risk Index ranking 1 to 10 (1 is good, 10 is bad) to guide you easily before buying any products. Be wary of advertisements conducted by companies and it is always better to review products ourselves!

You Can Save the Environment by Going Vegan

We are facing an ecological crisis, with climate change labeled as the “world’s gravest environmental threat”, according to PETA. Naturally, we feel the duty to do our part in solving the issue, however, that feeling of helplessness lead us to the million dollar question: where do we start? This crisis of consciousness has led to people opting for energy making slight changes in their life, however, it is not enough. According to a study conducted by Oxford researchers, going vegan is a lifestyle change that can provide a significant help to this environmental catastrophe.

“If you’re serious about protecting the environment, the most important thing that you can do is stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy “products”. – PETA

Vegan pancakes!

How do animals contribute to the environmental crisis?

Greenhouse gas emissions

Products of agricultural farming include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which are greenhouse gases that are the primary culprits behind global warming. UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2019) has also backed up the claim that vegan diets have the most potential to reduce greenhouse emissions as meat and dairy contribute up to 60% of agriculture’s green house emissions on their own.

vegan noodles

Carbon dioxide: According to PETA, it takes about “11 times as much fossil fuel to produce a calorie of animal protein as it does to produce a calorie of grain protein”. It is a no brainer, that it is more climate efficient to obtain products produced from plant based sources. Ruminant animal pastures for meat and diary accounted for 72% of carbon while croplands that serve as animal feed contributed to another 28%.

Methane: Methane is 25% as effective as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, hence it is in our interest to reduce the production of methane any chance we have. Ruminants produce gas while they digest their food and is also found in their feces.

Nitrous oxide: Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. According to a report by the UN, meat, egg and dairy industries are responsible for up to 65% of nitrous oxide emissions.

Land

If everyone stopped eating meat, global farmland use could be “reduced by 75%, equivalent to the size of US, Europe and China combined,” according to Independent. Besides drastically reducing greenhouse emissions, it would lessen the rate of deforestation, in turn allowing ecosystems to thrive and prevent the gradual extinction of species resulting from their loss of habitats.

Pollution

According to a study conducted by PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Hog and dairy farms spray their fields with waste produced by the animals. This is a health hazard as air particles filled with bacteria are blown into commercial homes, potentially infecting families and causing a stench. Furthermore, waste sprayed on the field leak into rivers and streams, potentially messing with the balance of the ecosystem and poisoning aquatic life, which is pretty ironic considering that same poisoned seafood end up on our plates.

Statistical models showed that cutting meat and diary products from one’s diet can reduce one’s carbon footprint up to 73%, which is better than cutting down flights, buying electric cars, or opting for sustainable meat and dairy, according to a source from Independent. A study from Oxford shows that meat eaters were responsible for up to more than half as many dietary greenhouse gas emissions than vegetarians and up to 102% more than vegans. A global shift is vital to turn the clock around. Try to make altercations in your diet, such as choosing to go meatless or vegan on one or two designated days per week. Every little effort counts!

Plastic is killing us

Everything is made out of plastic these days. And it is killing us. Out of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic produced since 1950, up to 6.3 billion tons of plastic becomes plastic waste. Out of this waste, a staggering 80% ends up in the ocean. A study conducted by Education University found that Hong Kong beaches had up to 2.4 times more microplastics per square meter compared to the United States. This is worrying because a study conducted by the United Nations found that up to 800 species of aquatic animals are affected by plastic debris in the ocean. Seabirds, sea turtles, fishes become entangled in the debris, while ingestion causes suffocation, starvation and drowning.

How does plastic waste in the sea affect you?

Research conducted by University of Science and Technology found that household products such as toothpastes, facial scrubs, and exfoliators contain microbeads are small enough to wash down drains and enter the oceans. Due to the small size of microplastics, it is very difficult to clean up from beaches so they end up circulating in the ocean for a longer period of time. The microplastics in the ocean is consumed by various marine life, and is lodged in their bodies.

Plastic is found in the seafood you eat

According to an analysis of 58 studies conducted by Greenpeace, microplastic pollutants including microbeads are found in 170 types of aquatic life. Many of these serve as common seafood dishes such as mussels, lobsters, oysters, with fish such as bluefin tuna and grey mullet. Traces of microbeads are found in their gut, and with these fish ending up on our dinner table. The irony? We end up consuming the microplastics we disposed off so carelessly.

Plastic passed along the food chain

Furthermore, microplastic could be more toxic than regular plastics due to their larger surface area- to- volume ration enabling it to absorb more organic pollutants. However, according to South China Morning Post, a Professor from Polytechnic University comforted the public that consuming non toxic microplastics in small amounts has limited harm on the body.

Plastic promotes growth of pathogens in the sea

Up to 11.1 billion plastic items are entangled in corals throughout Asia Pacific, and that number is projected to increase by 40% in 2025. Plastic is easily entangled in corals due to its spikey structure. According to a recent study, scientists have found that corals that come into contact with plastic have an 89% chance of contracting diseases due to light deprivation, toxin release, and anoxia.

Outbreaks of diseases on coral reefs have a domino effect to other industries. Besides the threat of extinction of aquatic life, up to 375 billion USD is at stake in the form of goods and service via fisheries, tourism and coastal protection. It is crucial for us to come up with a plastic waste management system that can protect the livelihoods of both humans, aquatic life, and the environment.

Covid-19 has increased plastic usage

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a jump in plastic usage. OceansAsia estimated that up to 12 to 15 million masks are disposed everyday in Hong Kong. However, most masks are not disposed off properly, and were instead left on the ground, on hiking trails or washed up by the beach. If you can, choose to use reusable cloth masks instead of the disposable ones.

Plastic in disposable masks threatening for aquatic life!

The bring your own cup initiative around the world has come to a halt due to health concerns. Businesses have now reverted back to using disposable cups. Disposable cups are made of mainly polystyrene and miscellaneous plastics. Styrene in polystyrene is suspected to be a carcinogen and is associated with health issues. Number 7 plastic, or miscellaneous plastics are comprised of bisphenol A or BPA, which functions to give plastic products its shiny finish. BPA is a known endocrine disrupter (Check out article mentioning BPA in protein supplements) and is suspected of contributing to heart disease and obesity according to a report by South China Morning Post.

Plastic waste everywhere

BPA laws:

  • BPA is prohibited by the European Commission for use in cosmetic products.
  • BPA is banned on the Canada Ingredient Hotlist for use in cosmetic products.
  • US California Proposition 65, list BPA as known to the State to Cause Developmental or Reproductive Toxicity in Females

What should we do about it?

  • Ban single use plastics
  • Opt for reusable mask, instead of single use, surgical ones
  • Shops should offer incentives for consumers to recycle plastic lids
  • Participate in beach clean ups
  • Legislations to ban sale of product containing microbeads

Top 5 Healthiest Cuisines in the World

Here are top 5 cuisines which are handpicked for their health benefits and punch of flavor. Not only do these foods taste good, they are packed with a ton of nutrients and vitamins crucial for the well being of your body! From hidden gems in Asia to the far West, navigate through scrumptious meals from various cultures that boasts of health benefits and exotic flavors. Who knows, you might just accidentally find your next favorite dish!

Japanese

The Japanese are famous for their longevity, and they’re probably the closest to cracking the code of immortality. A study conducted by the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the long life spans of Okinawan residents and their low rates of chronic diseases are corelated to their consumption of seaweed.

Japanese cuisine never goes wrong!

Commercial sushi joints tend to stray from the authentic roots with an injection of Western fusion which make it less healthier than traditional dishes. A popular dish, karaage, or Japanese style fried chicken is given a Western twist. It is smeared with a dollop of mayonnaise, making it appealing to Western consumers.

However, authentic Japanese cooking tends to star raw ingredients such as seafood and sea vegetables to honor its natural flavors. Staples such as yams, green tea, seaweed and soy, are rich in antioxidants and pack a punch of nutrition. As long as you watch your intake of tempura and carbs, you’re good to go!

Greek

Greek cuisine originates from the mysterious Island of Crete. According to research conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there is substantial evidence linking the high life expectancy and trend of low heart disease among Cretans to their diet.

The Mediterranean diet consists of natural foods such as olive oil, yoghurt, fresh fruit, garlic, tomatoes, and nuts and stars unsaturated fats, legumes, vegetables and grains. Popular ingredients such as chickpeas, fish, and peppers contribute to high nutritional values and high levels of Omega 3. Surprisingly, the diet has little meat, hence reducing the amount of saturated fats.

Most Greek dishes try to preserve the natural flavor of its food, hence its simple methods of cooking such as grilling, and mixing natural foods into salads.

Korean

Known for cleverly incorporating a lot of vegetables and meats, the burst of flavors Korean food provides is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Furthermore, their method of cooking is also healthier with plenty of soups, steamed dishes and grilled meats instead of fried foods.

Korean food is one of the healthiest cuisines!

When we think of Korean cuisine, the first item that comes to mind is kimchi. This fermented vegetable dish is said to have a myriad of health benefits including anti cancer properties and lower cholesterol. Key ingredients in Kimchi comprise of ginger, red peppers, and various vegetables. It is also considered a probiotic, which aids your digestive system.

Bimbimbap, “bimbim” meaning “mixed” and “bap” meaning rice, is a central dish in Korean cuisine which comprises of rice served with a mixture of vegetables with sliced beef and topped with gochujang (chilli pepper paste), soy sauce, or doenjang (fermented soybean paste). The mixture of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables make this a perfect balanced diet. Its noodles, soups and other versions of rice dishes are centered around this proportion of vegetables and meats.

Vietnamese

Vietnamese cuisine is low in fat, gluten free, and densely packed with nutrients, hence making it perfect for boosting the immune system, aid weight loss and provide a punch of energy. Dishes usually emphasizes fresh herbs, tons of leafy greens, seafood, lean meats and rice, packed with antioxidants and Vitamin A and E, which help fight against premature aging. Green papaya is utilized in a lot of Vietnamese dishes, and a study from British Journal of Nutrition found that green papaya contains healthier carotenoids than those in other vegetables.

Vietnamese cuisine for a change!

Vietnamese dishes are mostly prepared by steaming and simmering, hence less fat is being consumed. Cooked foods are usually accompanied by a side of salads and herbs served as whole leaves, adding a flavorful crunch to the meal. Restorative herbs like coriander and mint that is popular for improving digestion and cures nausea. ( Perfect hangover comfort food!)

Vietnamese food is low on wheat, the key culprit to getting hungry faster as it is digested by the body quickly. Vietnamese food mainly comprises of rice noodles and rice papers instead of wheat, and helps regulate the blood sugar level.

Thai

Traditional Thai cuisine is healthy and is vegetable centric, low in calories, served with lean proteins and often infused with a mixture of spices, and herbs, creating its signature bold tastes. Thai food has a good balance of macronutrients, with even servings of non starchy vegetables, protein, fats and carbs. Furthermore, a study shows that the intake of vegetables may contribute to sustained energy throughout the day and aid weight loss.

Packed with nutrition

Curries, and soups such as tom yum soup are laden with low starch vegetables such as mushrooms, tomatoes, cabbage and onions. The fiber, vitamins and minerals in the vegetables contribute to good digestion and overall health, according to Healthline. Healthy dishes include: Rice rolls, papaya salad, steamed fish, and red green curries.

To boost nutrition, opt for brown rice instead of white, which is packed with more fiber and nutrients. Also, eat high fat dishes like curries in moderation! Western influenced dressings for salads, deep fried foods and curries are prone to high calories and levels of sodium. As a rule of thumb, opt for a dish loaded with vegetables, with a protein source and infused with Thai herbs and spices. Cash in all that natural goodness!

Thai cuisine never goes wrong!

7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Good Nutrition

Good nutrition is often associated with losing body weight. However, the benefits go far beyond weight loss. Over the decades, science has proven that a healthy diet is significant for strong bones and teeth, strong immune, improved mood, an active lifestyle, and improved memory. Good nutrition can help prevent the risk of many diseases. 

A platter full of nutrition

To better understand the role healthy foods play in our health, this article highlights seven proven benefits of proper nutrition. Read along to find out how the right food can improve your overall health.

Weight Control

Healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains are packed with nutrients. These foods are low in calories compared to processed foods. They fall under fiber, which is indigestible. Fiber helps maintain a clean and healthy digestive system. 

Foods rich in fiber help with weight loss. Soluble fiber binds with water molecules, forming a thick gel that sticks to the gut, slowing down food movement. In return, this slows the rate of digestion and, consequently, the absorption of nutrients. As a result, you stay full for longer, reducing your food intake. 

Packed with nutrition!

Beans, apples, oat, peas, and fruits such as pears, berries, citrus, and apples are part of the foods rich in soluble fiber. These vegetables and fruits are generally low in calories. 

Therefore, maintaining soluble fiber in your diet ensures regulated body weight, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure.

Strong Healthy Bones and Teeth

Foods rich in Calcium and Magnesium are associated with strong, healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is found in low-fat dairy products. Foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, legumes, canned fish, legumes, and dark green vegetables are also great calcium sources. Additionally, Vitamin D from the sun triggers the production of calcium, which reinforces the bone strength.

Whole grains, leafy vegetables, seeds, and nuts are a source of magnesium. Magnesium helps the body absorb calcium and increase the born dentistry. Strong bones help against osteoporosis, which is a condition that causes bone loss or limits bone production in the body.

Boost the Immune System

Maintaining a healthy diet boosts your body defense against diseases. Science has proven that Vitamin C and E and other nutrients like beta-carotene in vegetables and fruits promote a strong immune system. Also, foods rich in antioxidants minimize oxidative stress, helping your body function at an optimum level

All the nutrition you need in a bowl!

Sources of vitamin E include spinach, nuts, broccoli, and seeds. Vitamin C includes most vegetables and fruits. These antioxidants help suppress free radicals, which in return, promote the body’s response to diseases. Vitamin C promotes the production of T-cells and B-cells found in white blood cells. 

Plant-based milk and fortified cereals are sources of Vitamin D, which reduces the risk of viral infections. In addition, foods rich in Zinc such as lentils, pumpkin seeds, beans, and sesame seeds are immune boosters.

Overall, the production of white blood cells ensures your immune system is strong. Therefore, it’s important to have a diet rich in seeds, nuts, vegetables,and  fruits.

Prevention of Lifestyle Diseases

Lifestyle diseases are caused by poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle. This leads to obesity, which can further cause chronic diseases such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoarthritis. Overweight also increases the risk of some cancer. 

The above health complications can be averted by changing your lifestyle. Good nutrition is the first step to a healthy lifestyle. Here, you want to minimize the intake of fat and processed sugar. The next step is increasing the intake of vegetables and fruits. Incorporating regular exercise can also help minimize the risk of lifestyle diseases.  

Research shows that a considerable percentage of heart complications can be prevented by making healthy food choices and regular workouts. Foods rich in Vitamin E have been proven to help minimize the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Also, low salt intake lowers blood pressure.

Experts in the fitness industry assert that a healthy meal and as little as 10 minutes of exercise can make a difference. So, if you are a fitness enthusiast with a passion for helping others live healthily, Ace certification reviews are a perfect starting point to transform your passion into a career. 

Improved Mood

Research has shown that foods with a low glycemic index improve your mood. These are foods that are digested slowly, leading to a gradual increase of glucose in the blood. 

These foods include vegetables, fruits, wholegrain, and pulses. On the contrary, carbohydrates have a high glycemic index because they are broken down fast, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar. The key is striking a balance between low and high glycemic index foods.

Active Lifestyle

Your diet significantly determines your energy level. Taking excess fat, refined carbohydrates, and sugars lead to an increased sugar level in your blood, which causes fatigue. 

Whole grains, unprocessed proteins, fruits, and vegetables are packed with nutrients. Their digestion takes place slowly, leading to a progressive increase in sugar levels in the blood. As a result, your energy levels are consistent throughout the day. 

A consistent energy level means you can get tasks done from dawn to dusk without feeling overly exhausted. Besides, taking healthy snacks during the day will consistently fuel your energy, increasing your productivity

Improved Memory

A healthy meal rich in Vitamin D, C, and E, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, and polyphenols have been found to prevent cognitive decline and memory loss. Diets like the Mediterranean have a wide range of food choices rich in nutrients that improve memory.

Conclusion

Most people underestimate the importance of good nutrition, yet science has proven that healthy meals are the key to a robust lifestyle. Eating healthy foods will go along in ensuring your immune system is strong enough to wade out diseases. 

So, if you’re still struggling with poor eating habits, the simplest way to incorporate healthy foods into your diet is to have a weekly meal plan. This helps avoid the last-minute struggles in deciding what to eat. 

You can shop once a week and outline a balanced diet meal plan. Next, you want to try different foods once in a while to keep it fun. Lastly, start with small changes and progress towards replacing all the junk foods with healthy ones.


About Tyler Read: 

Tyler Read is the owner of PTPioneer.com which is a website dedicated to helping people get started in the personal training industry. He helps people discover, study, and pass their fitness exams. Check out his free videos for the latest trends.

CBD: A product of good marketing?

The popularity of CBD has skyrocketed over the years, with people swearing by its medicinal properties. In the US, every corner shop you turn to seem to have some form of CBD, be it in the form of shampoo, oils, to CBD infused food. Cafes selling CBD infused cookies and coffees have started to pop up in Hong Kong. However, despite its fame, little is known about how CBD affects our body. This lack of knowledge coupled by its availability around the world has led to discrepancies and legal conundrums around the world. In some parts of the world, CBD has to be purchased with a prescription, however, in other parts of the world, it is as simple as buying a packet of chips off a supermarket shelf.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or its abbreviated form, CBD is one of the active ingredients of cannabis. It is derived from the hemp plant, a cousin of the marijuana plant. CBD is not a psychoactive drug, as hemp plants do not produce enough tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical ingredient guilty of giving us that “high”. CBD is marketed as a wonder drug, with various companies and pharmaceuticals marketing its ability to cure cancer, alleviate pains, rectify sleeping disorders, etc. However, does it really live up to its claims?

According to Scientific American, CBD claims do have some backings. CBD has the potential to treat a variety of conditions as it has the ability to bind to various receptors in the body. It binds specifically to the endocannabinoid system, which involves pain, mood, metabolism. However, there isn’t sufficient information regarding how our body absorbs the compound to draw a conclusive conclusion.

Scientifically proven health benefits:

Reducing / stopping epileptic seizures:

According to Harvard Health, research has shown that CBD is able to reduce and even stop a number of epileptic seizures, which normally fails to respond to ant seizure medications. The FDA has also approved the first ever cannabis derived medicine, Epidiolex.

Reduce anxiety:

CBD is taken by patients who suffer from insomnia. Studies and testimonies from patients show that it could reduce anxiety and put them in a more relaxed state.

Reduce chronic pain:

Several studies back up this claim. A study by the European Journal of Pain uses animals as test subjects to show that CBD applied on skin can help lower pain and inflammation derived from arthritis. Another study showed that CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain. However, more study on humans should be conducted.

Side effects of CBD:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

The Challenge in Prescribing CBD

The ideal prescription of CBD varies by many external factors including sex, age, body mass, medical conditions etc.

The drug’s behavior changes at different concentrations:

The ability of CBD to bind to multiple receptors make observation tricky. Furthermore, where it binds is heavily corelated to its dosage. CBD has the uncanny ability to behave like different drugs at different concentrations. Contrary to popular belief, increasing dosage doesn’t guarantee positive results. A study conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine showed that antianxiety effects peaked after 300mg dose, however was significantly lower at 900mg.

CBD is oil soluble:

The amount of CBD absorbed into the bloodstream increases when taken with meals or infused in oils. A report by GW showed that “plasma concentrations quadrupled when liquid medicine was taken with a high fat meal, compared to the medication alone.”

Variation in form and purity:

As CBD is only one of the few hundred components derived from a plant, extracts in some products contain varying amounts of CBD. Furthermore, the CBD may contain other compounds as well. The inability to quantify CBD in known amounts and the fact that it is not a concrete, single molecule causes variation in form and purity, hence the inability for it to be properly prescribed.

CBD oils

Is CBD legal?

United States:

Now the million dollar question. Is CBD legal? CBD is available in most of the states in the US, however all 50 states have varying levels of restrictions and laws towards the legalization of CBD. Mostly, CBD is legal as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC. However, Virginians can only access CBD with a prescription. It is marketed and sold as a supplement, not a medication. The FDA does not regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements, hence, there is no way of knowing if the product contains said active ingredients. To be safe, do some more research about the laws in your area.

CBD infused drinks anyone!

Europe:

The European Commission is in the process of determining if CBD should be labeled a novel foods or narcotics. Some European countries have legalized CBD in some ways, with the variation of most countries allowing less than 0.2% THC or no THC at all. France and Norway are examples of countries that only allow for a isolated form of CBD. However, a small number of countries on the other end of the scale who have made it illegal to buy, sell or possess CBD.

Asia:

There is a mixed response of regulations throughout Asia. Even the pure form of CBD is completely banned in Singapore and Asian markets, however other markets such as Hong Kong and Japan are more lenient in accepting pure forms of CBD. A low percentage of THC or an isolated form of CBD has a better chance of expanding in Asian markets. Despite the reserved attitudes from Asian countries, there is a trend of laws relaxing as people are more open to claims of health benefits from other parts of the world.

CBD derived from the Hemp tree

Fun facts:

  • China is a big producer of Hemp. Despite CBD not being on the list of narcotics in China, it is only legal for cosmetic use and remain illegal for food and health
  • Growing Hemp is illegal in Hong Kong. Hong Kong and Japanese markets allow isolated forms of CBD (0% THC) in the market.
  • Countries that allow CBD as medical use: South Korea, Malaysia, Phillipines, Taiwan, Thailand.

Turmeric is a Super Spice for Sensitive Skin!


Turmeric has been used to treat inflammatory skin conditions like Eczema, but the question is turmeric good for our skin? It contains the compound curcumin, which has shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

What is turmeric?

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Turmeric is a Super Spice!

Commonly used in Asian food, turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It is mainly used as the main spice in curry. It has a bitter taste and can be used to flavour many things such as butters and cheeses. The root of turmeric is known to be used to make medicine. The compound curcumin is yellow coloured, which can be used to colour foods and cosmetics.

What can turmeric do?

Turmeric can be used for a number of conditions, most notably for pain and inflammation. It can be used for other conditions such as;

  • hay fever
  • high cholesterol
  • liver disease

Turmeric has been used for other conditions with no good scientific evidence to support the use, such as heartburn, inflammatory bowel disease and stress.

Turmeric and Eczema Studies

There are many studies to determine whether turmeric is able to treat Eczema. Despite the spice been used as a natural treatment for skin conditions, there is very little research on the relationship between the two.

Studies

A 2016 review of 18 studies that involved curcumin for treating Eczema both topically and orally found early evidence to support the matter. There is the need for more studies, as researchers could not determine the dosage, efficacy, and mechanism of action.

A study of 150 Eczema sufferers used a turmeric containing cream for 4 weeks. It resulted in nearly 30% decrease in skin scaling and a 32% decrease in itchiness. Despite the positive results, the cream also contained other anti-inflammatory herbs, meaning that it cannot be concluded that the turmeric alone relieved the Eczema symptoms.

Can we use Turmeric?

Should we use turmeric for Eczema? The research is still far too limited to give an answer. A study needs to show significant improves in Eczema symptoms using turmeric alone. Most studies used a topical cream containing turmeric but many other herbs and spices.

Turmeric in Products

Many companies use turmeric as an ingredient in their cosmetic products. Applying turmeric-containing products allows for adequate absorption of curcumin. Despite the benefits of these products with turmeric, the formulas have specifically formulated for enhanced absorption. This does not mean applying pure turmeric will have the effects.

Should I use Turmeric for Eczema?

Turmeric has a lot of potential health benefits but it does not have clear links with Eczema. It has been used for centuries in Asian culture for herbal medicine. Products containing turmeric are formulated to be used safely. Not that excessive turmeric intake can include skin rashes and other conditions.

To get the best possible advice, consult a dermatologist or doctor and ask for their guidance.