Nobody wants to have a stuffy, runny nose and itchy eyes year-round, or to not be able to breathe deeply. (Or maybe there are some that do. Whatever floats your boat.)

The current magical mystery tour of my immune system, hosted by the coolest allergy, immunology and asthma guy around, has me on two new products to see if we can figure out why my immune system and lungs hate me. I'm ok with the trial and error process at this point, since it's relatively harmless stuff and it's not a life or death illness.

But when I opened the medicine cabinet last night after filling these various prescriptions, I had a flash of concern that I was turning into one of those consumers with cabinets overflowing with pills and ointments and products and whatever else they're trying to sell me. I'm not ok with that.

I wanted to know how many prescriptions the average American is taking (to see if I compare favorably) and during my research stumbled upon this off-topic but related tidbit: the typical American woman uses 12 products containing about 180 chemicals every single day.

Yikes. Thankfully I am not the typical American woman - I don't wear makeup or use hair products or paint my nails or any of that other "girl" stuff. But just in case, I counted the number of products I do use every day (like toothpaste, deodorant, etc). Grand total: seven. If it's a day where I do need to look like a grown-up and do my hair and makeup, it goes up to twelve. Doesn't seem like that much if I don't think about it, but counting really brings it home.

There is a book from 2007 that was a sort of expose of the cosmetic industry, but this isn't a new issue. There are so many chemicals in the products we use, even the ones that are supposedly good for us - are the levels really negligible, or are they actually causing harm? I remember several years ago when one of the local news stations in the Twin Cities (MN) did a big story on hormones in the water supply, discovered because fish and frogs and the like were exhibiting some pretty weird physical traits. Will I be negatively affected because I was hydrated?

Many of the associations are only hypotheses at this point - they "may" cause cancer. But shouldn't someone try to find out whether it really does or doesn't? And should I try to find alternative products, just in case?

Some links:
Chemicals to avoid in every day personal care products (which is basically a list of every single product you use, so good luck)
Top 20 cosmetic companies of concern
A list of companies that have signed the Compact For Safe Cosmetics
Tips for finding safe organic alternatives for personal care products