What do toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, and many other hygiene products have to do with orangutans? There is a commodity that comes from palm trees called palm oil. The lauryl alcohol found in palm and coconut oil is used to produce a synthetic product called sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate or SLS for short.
So no problem right? A natural ingredient is usually safe for your health and the environment; so whatʼs the issue?
With the growing demand for palm oil, plantations are cropping up all over tropical areas…particularly in habitats of the orangutans. Rainforests are toppled for the profitable palm tree and in turn the local fauna receive an unfriendly eviction (and their rent wasn’t even late).
Orangutans, however, are more at risk of extinction than their neighbors.
How can you help?
Try to locate hygiene products like toothpaste and shampoo/conditioner that do not have sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate included as an ingredient. It may be more difficult than you think because many companies turn to this economical product as a synthetic foaming agent. Needless to say, the products that do not contain these materials tend to come at a heftier price. The products that I have found are usually organic formulations and the price is typically double that of its mainstream counterpart.
Here’s the problem: We have both decreased availability as well as increased expense standing in the way of making a decision that is better for the Earth, our primate cousins, and even our health (because SLS has been linked to some health issues). Maybe it’s worth it to you to spend a bit more on products that don’t contain SLS, maybe it’s not. But hopefully you’ll at least look a bit closer at your personal care products’ ingredients.
[Photo (before edit): Yale Environment]