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Shampoo Ingredient Kills Rats' Brain Cells


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Shampoo Ingredient Kills Rats' Brain Cells

Mon Dec 6, 5:01 PM ET

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDayNews) -- Experiments with the brain cells of rats show that contact with an ingredient found in shampoos, hand lotions and paint causes neurons to die.

The chemical, methylisothiazolinone (MIT), belongs to a class of compounds called biocides. These are used in the manufacture of many common household products and industrial water cooling systems to prevent bacteria from developing.

According to the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites), brands containing MIT include the shampoos Head and Shoulders, Suave, and Clairol, as well as Pantene hair conditioner and Revlon hair color.

"As far as I can tell, no neurodevelopmental testing has been done on MIT," said lead researcher Elias Aizenman, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Aizenman said he is concerned that without such testing it is not known if, for example, a pregnant woman who is exposed to MIT could put her fetus at risk for abnormal brain development. People working directly with MIT are those most at risk, he said.

In earlier experiments with rat brain cells, Aizenman's team found that direct exposure to MIT in concentrations like those found in hand cream was enough to kill neurons. In the current series of experiments, also with rat cells, the researchers found that a long exposure to low concentrations of MIT caused a malfunction in the ways neurons communicate with each other.

"One of the things that this compound was very good at was preventing neurons from communicating with other neurons," he said.

Aizenman presented his findings Dec. 5 at the American Society for Cell Biology annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Whether long-term exposure to products containing MIT is dangerous is not known, Aizenman said. "Can I say that these products are safe to use? No," he said. "Can I say that these products are unsafe to use? No."

Aizenman believes that testing needs to be done to determine if MIT is harmful to humans in the concentrations found in household products.

"It appears that the Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) [EPA] does not require neurodevelopmental testing," Aizenman said. "That is bothersome. Maybe there are substances that have made it into general use that could be damaging to the nervous system. Regulators need to take a hard look this and require more tests."

The work that Aizenman has been doing "is important in understanding the things that people are exposed to on a chronic, daily basis," said Beth Ann McLaughlin, an assistant professor of pharmacology at Vanderbilt University.

McLaughlin added that people using products containing MIT should be skeptical. "There is a healthy dose of skepticism that needs to come when using any products or being intensely exposed to any compound," she said.

"These findings are expected," said Gerald McEwen, vice president for science at the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. "MIT is a biocide. The purpose of it is to kill bacteria. You would expect it to be detrimental to any type of cells."

McEwen said that direct exposure to high concentrations of MIT will be irritating to the skin, because it can damage skin cells. However, he doesn't believe that MIT poses any dangers to consumers in the low concentrations found in household products.

"The ability of MIT to cause neurotoxicity has been studied," McEwen said. In animals exposed to MIT, there has been no hint of neuro-damage, because MIT affects only the cells it touches and there is no way for it to get into the bloodstream and go to the brain, he said.

"It can't get to your brain cells, period," he emphasized.

MIT has been approved as a biocide by the EPA, which looked at the neurological effects, McEwen added. This information was published by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, an industry program that reviews the safety of cosmetic ingredients, he explained.

However, McLaughlin remains concerned. "The quantity of compounds that we can make that make the quality of life wonderful, in the short term, is growing," she said. "But we are lagging in our understanding of what those compounds can do to our health and our children's health."

More information

The National Institutes of Health has a list of household products containing MIT.

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Briarrose,

I've been thinking to do so for a few days now and now I just HAVE to compliment you on all the information your getting us. I'm having too much brain fog for reading and understanding everything nowadays but this one is something I've been thinking over since some time. I've been painting my hair for years since I already started to become grey haired in my early thirty's (and don't you laugh at this :unsure: !!!) and wondered if this wouldn't do any harm. Well I'm going to read your article now and hope I can understand!!! But thanks again for all your info!!! Take care,

Corina

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Guest tearose

How can they just come out and say "It can't get to your brain cells, period"? They haven't even done complete studies. What if someone has an open cut on their hand or head? Is it not able to penetrate brain tissue for some scientific reason? Why don't they just explain it. Lyme disease wasn't thought to cross the blood brain barrier for many years too. Now that has all changed. Once again, so much we aren't told. Will we ever get straight answers? sigh, tearose

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corina--this is from drweil.com Your question made me remember I had read this on his website (it was posted in March 2004).

I am also getting gray hairs! I was thinking about having something subtle done with the color--but reading this again is making me think twice.

Katherine

"A recently published study from Yale University School of Medicine adds weight to earlier reports that long-term use of dark hair coloring may significantly increase the risk of non-Hodgkin?s lymphoma, a malignancy that occurs in the body?s lymphatic system. However, these findings apply only to women who began coloring their hair before 1980; risks were greatest for those who dyed their hair a dark color eight times a year or more. The study was published in the Jan. 15, 2004, issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

This isn?t the first study to link hair coloring and lymphoma. A number of earlier ones had identified long-term use of dark hair coloring as a risk factor, but others found no such association. One of the problems with these earlier studies is that none identified hair coloring products as the primary focus, and thus didn?t collect the details that might have given us some insight into why and how hair coloring might be linked to lymphoma.

The new study found no increased risk of lymphoma among women who began dyeing their hair after 1980 - no matter how often they applied color. This may be due to changes in the dye formulas (perhaps as a result of the elimination of coal-tar ingredients after they were found to be carcinogenic when fed to lab rats and mice). But the researchers also raised the advertisement

possibility that women who started coloring their hair after 1980 may not have used the dyes long enough to see any adverse effects.

The Yale researchers are now studying whether any genetic factors might make women who use dark hair dye more likely to develop lymphoma.

The incidence of non-Hodgkin?s lymphoma has been on the upswing, rising 73 percent between 1973 and 1991 and continuing to increase ever since. Incidence rates are 60-percent higher than normal among AIDS patients. Exposure to pesticides and other environmental toxins also seem to play a role (pesticides have been linked with the disease among farmers and higher than normal rates occur among dry cleaners, rubber workers, aircraft maintenance workers and petroleum refining workers).

In general, I discourage people from using hair dyes. Artificial colors are as suspect in cosmetic products as they are in your food. When you apply hair dyes to your head, they're absorbed through the scalp, where there's a very rich blood supply that may carry them through the body. In addition to non-Hodgkin?s lymphoma, there has been some speculation that hair dyes can increase the risk of bladder cancer (because the chemicals in the dye are absorbed, and concentrate in the bladder). Here, too, dark dyes are of particular concern, because they contain a higher concentration of chemicals than the light ones."

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tearose--note it is a representative of the cosmetic industry making the claim that the substance cannot affect brain cells. I agree that this claim is questionable without further study.

So, not only should we eat a variety of foods, to reduce exposure to any particular chemical contaminant, we should also use a variety of shampoos and conditioners for the same reason!

Katherine

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Yet another good reason why I only buy shampoo and conditioner from the health food store with all natural ingredients. And I make my own non-toxic household cleaning products. I'm so sensitive to chemicals. Goodness knows we're exposed to enough of them already in everyday life that we're not even aware of. :) I try to cut them out wherever I can! Thanks for posting the research. Maybe we should all become scientists! :)

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Katherine,

thanks for sharing this. Luckily I started on colouring my hair in the 1990's. I suggested my hairdresser not to colour it anymore but she says I will sure look OLD doing that. I DON'T WANT TO LOOK OLD. I have so much trouble with my body behaving old while in my head I feel soooo young!!!! :)

I'm sorry but I think I'll make an appointment with my hairdresser before Christmas but promiss to talk this over again!!!

Corina

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Corina,

Of course your hairdresser says you will look old ... because if you stop coloring your hair, she will not be making any money off of you. From your pictures you certainly don't look old and won't have to worry about that for some time.

And even then, we should all become more comfortable with the aging process. We should be happy to be alive to see every new year. There are many children who die and never get to know what it's like to go on that first date or get married, or drink a beer legally.

OK, I'm getting too serious ... but really, I think getting older is nothing to be ashamed of. Every single person in this world is going to get old. Celebrate those gray hairs! At least we still have hair, right? It could be worse.

Amy

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Some of the most beautiful women in the world have grey hair. Truly. In our western culture we are caught up in this very superficial concept of beauty sold to us by the cosmetic and other industries. In many non-western cultures, the older you are, the more revered, and a grey hair is a welcome event in one's life.

BUT, at the same time, if coloring your hair is a small thing that makes you feel good, then perhaps it is worth doing. :D

I think there are dyes available that are less harsh than the mainstream hair dyes used by most salons, btw.

Katherine

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Corina, I agree--you look young and beautiful! And it's not your hair color ... it's your lovely skin, smile, eyes... Amy's right--those hairdressers have an investment in motivating you to color your hair! But if it makes you feel good ... it's kind of like the water/milk/contamination scares. Beware what you read in a single article. Maybe do some more research before making a final decision.

I decided about 20 years ago not to use permanent color in my hair because I knew I'd have to get touch ups every 6 weeks and I could never afford that; I started turning gray (from dark brown) when I was in high school. I did use temporary color for a while. My hair now is long ... and as my aunt commented last week, almost completely gray (I do have some brown underneath and streaked through). Some woman on a street downtown yesterday scared me--then made me laugh. I didn't see her walking 4 feet to my left; all of a sudden she turned to me and shouted out, "This is a stick-up! Gimme all of your hair!" (I should've known it was a joke from the get-go; who says "this is a stick-up" anymore?") I get a lot of comments (mostly, "Don't ever color it") but I have to say, that was a first!

Here's another option: you can get what's called "low-lighting" -- like putting blond highlights on individual strands but instead, it uses a darker natural color instead. I sometimes think about doing that ... you don't have to color roots this way, and you'd be using way less dye way less often. Just a thought.

Take care,

m

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Hi guys,

well you kept me out of my slee last night Amy. And I feel a need to respond. The reason why I color my hair (in the color I used to have) is NOT JUST to look more beautiful, but it's because that makes me feel being more "my old me". Since POTS hit me 4,5 years ago (starting with what was just a little skating accident followed by surgery what probalby triggered my POTS), there was a lot that I had to give up (like most of us). I had to give up my sports (which I LOVED to do), I had to give up my work, going out with friends, I can't go out on my own because I'm in a wheelchair and if I don't call to ask people to come over they just don't because eveybody is working or doing their things (which ofcourse I can understand) and most important: I can't take my children out on my own anymore. At first they asked me: can we do this or can we do that but after a year (in which I had to say: no, I'm sorry but I can't, they got used to it and don't ask anymore (and that hurts even more). I felt like being isolated and that (and the things I had to give up) made me change. And although I know my new me isn't any worse than my old me I desperately would stick to my old me because of all the things I (and we as a family) could do. Sometimes I feel I'll explode of adrenaline with which I can't do anything (like walking, running, jumping etc.), but in my head I want to do sooo much and I hate my body for acting like an old person. But I CAN ask my hairdresser to color my hair and (for some weeks) look like the old me and that's what makes me feel a little better.

So, I'll give it another thought, but BE SURE the coloring of my hair has nothing to do with children dying without being able to do those things you mentioned. I''m a mother myself and I know some mothers who lost their child. I know there is nothing more worse/bad (don't know the correct word) than loosing your child (or a child loosing his/her mother).

I wrote this just to explain you because I would hate people to think I'm superficial or empty-minded.

Corina

Oh and Merril, I watched you picture and you hair IS beautiful and thanks for the option you mentioned and as a matter of fact, I sometimes do that in summer

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Oh Corina, I am so sorry I made you lose sleep! I didn't mean to make you feel shallow or anything like that. It is your hair and do what you wish; I totally understand the loss of feeling/looking like your old self. None of my clothes fit because I lost so much weight, and I honestly don't look like my old self -- because I used to have sort of a chubby-round face (not fat, but just kind of round), and now that fat is gone. What makes me angry is that people tell you how great you look when you are thin, when in fact you are totally unhealthy -- THEY are the shallow ones. In this society we define beauty based on how much we weigh -- and even though my weight is 15 pounds below my ideal and I have lost virtually all muscle and strength, "I look great"? I think not.

Anyway, you should do what makes YOU feel best. If that means coloring once in a while, do it. Try to shoot for the safest products out there -- Aveda is a good choice for salon quality. You could also try a henna, which often is more natural.

Please never let anything I say keep you awake! I sometimes need to just shut up!

Amy

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Amy,

thanks for replying and for mentioning Henna. That might be a very good substitute. I'll ask for Aveda as well (don't know if that's available overhere).

I feel very sorry for you having this trouble with weight loss. I've been 49 kilo's before I had surgery in 2001 and that's abslutely not healthy (considering my length) anymore. What I tried to do then was drinking chocolatemilk, eat as much cream as I could and try to get as much calories (and vitamins and minerals) as possible to just stay able to keep walking (as far as I good do that). I hope you can get some answers soon about this weightloss. It's definately not normal and not healthy. And it doesn't look great either, but more important is that you look great inside (which I think you do!). Take care,

Corina

Oh Amy, what I've wanted to ask you for some time now: I think you live in Madison County, do the bridges still exist? I've read R.J. Waller's Bridges of Madison County and saw the movie (with my favourite actrice Merril Streep) and was wondering if the bridges are still there.

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I actually live in Madison, Wisconsin, but it's close to Iowa, and that's where the bridges of Madison County are. Yes, they're still there ... at least some of them are. They are beautiful. We actually have a framed picture of one in our living room.

Amy

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Dumb blonde jokes, hey now :o

Corina I've been to Winterset, Iowa 3 times now and love to see the bridges. Home of John Wayne btw, he lived in a tiny little house there. If I ever get my scanner working I'll post my pictures. I couldn't talk my boyfriend into touring Francesca's house.

The bridges are beautiful and there is a little park near there with a beautiful gazebo, it would be a great place to get married.

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Steph,

I would love to see your pictures, do you think it would be possible for me to print one? The story of Francesca sooo touched me, I'm sorry you couldn't go into her house. There are so many places in the US I would LOVE to see. I guess that's my dream: to travel through the US by camper. So who knows, one day . . . I'll keep on dreaming. Oh and I would also love to travel across Canada and Australia and . . . I'd better start saving money to buy a camper :o .

And April, I thought of being blonde too!!! I thought I wish I had been a blonde :)

Corina

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