While products such as cleaners, disinfectants, soaps, creams, lotions, make-up and shampoos may make our lives more comfortable and have for many become an integral part of daily life, the ingredient lists of these products are so long and complicated that for most of the actual chemical composition of what we use routinely is unknown to us. What is known however, is that these products contain a number of substances which are harmful not only to us but to our environment.

Which ingredients can be harmful?

  • solvents in cleaning products and air fresheners raise the VOC level indoors and may cause headaches, tiredness and general feelings of unwellness when present in high concentrations
  • synthetic conservatives such as sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, parabenes, triclosan or MDGN (Methyl dibromo glutaro nitril) are known skin irritants, they can cause allergies, cancer and in combination with other chemicals may produce toxins in our body
  • aluminum in cosmetics, skin creams (including  sunscreen for kids!), disinfectants, antiperspirants and certain medications may cause certain food intolerances and at worst, may predispose to Alzheimer's disease and breast cancer.
  • perfumes may cause allergies
  • paraffin oils contain carcinogenic polycyclic hydrocarbons
  • personal care products especially in Asian countries, often contain whitening agents which can be strong irritants


  • Generally it is best to choose products with the smallest number of safe ingredients. Brands to look for in Shanghai are those such as eco&more. You can view the eco&more website here
  • Try to use as few cleaners and cosmetics as possible and in the smallest quantities; the more foam a soap produces the more anionic tensides and stabilizers it contains which are not necessary for the cleaning effect and only contribute more to the toxic load around us
  • Babies and small children take in more harmful substances and should use as little product as possible, they do perfectly well without bubble bath, baby creams and lotions!
  • The summer in Shanghai is long and hot, so the use of daily sunscreen is necessary, but avoid overuse, especially for children. Make sure to choose a safe approved brand preferably from a country with strict production controls such as Australia
  • Limit the use of antibacterial soaps and cleaners. Their effect on lowering the number of bacterial infections is far from proven and they may result in resistant organisms, as well as harming the environment when they enter our waterways