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Don't feel well? A growing amount of evidence shows that personal care products such as lotions, shampoos, make-up and nail polish, could have a toxic - if not deadly - effect on our health.

Environmental journalist Kim Erickson's new book Drop-Dead Gorgeous: Protecting Yourself from the Hidden Dangers of Cosmetics (Contemporary Books, $16.95) aims to expose the truth about the cosmetics industry and the potential irritants, carcinogens and hormone disrupters they put in our favorite products. According to Erickson, these dangerous chemicals, if used over time, can lead to horrible things such as lung cancer, brain damage, kidney and liver damage and even death. "I started looking at the labels, and was appalled at what's in the personal care products we're slathering on everyday," Erickson says.

That shocking discovery prompted Erickson to start investigating these man-made ingredients, and she poured her findings into her first book. Erickson says we're exposed to more than 200 synthetic chemicals each day in products such as makeup, perfumes and body and hair products. While these products do little harm in the short term, the long-term effects are astounding. Erickson writes: "For most of us, the adverse health effect of toxins is compounded over the course of several decades, confusing our hormone receptors and slowly altering our cell structure. The resulting cancer may not appear for 20 or 30 years."

One common chemical is Dibutyl Phthalate, an endocrine disrupter found in nail polish, perfume, hair spray and other products. Endocrine disrupters reportedly interfere with the normal functioning of the body's hormones by either blocking the body's natural estrogen or acting like an estrogen impostor. Synthetic hormone disrupters have been linked to a reduction in sperm in men, impaired thyroid function, breast cancer and other ills. "It's used as a solvent and fixative," Erickson says. "It makes our skin absorb creams, but it's so easily absorbed by the skin, it accumulates in the fatty tissue, and doesn't wash out of the body."

Propylene Glycol, an ingredient found in moisturizers, is "the most widely used moisture-carrying ingredient found in cosmetics," Erickson writes (Indeed, all of my lotions and even my blueberry foot scrub contained propylene glycol). Oddly enough antifreeze and brake fluid contain the solvent, and studies link the ingredient to kidney damage and liver abnormalities.

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