Archive for April 6th, 2009

sheep-lanolinBy Richie Gerber


There’s a dirty little secret lurking in your “all-natural” lip balm as well as other balms. It’s called Lanolin. Touted for its moisturizing properties, lanolin has been included in a number of body and skin care products over the years. Some companies even go far enough to brag about it on the front of the bottle. However, while lanolin is considered to be a “natural” product since it is not technically a petrochemical, there is controversy as to exactly how it is gathered.


So What is Lanolin?

Lanolin is a wax from a sebaceous gland in sheepskin. In ancient times they discovered that this wax is moisturizing on the skin and good for softening leather as well. It really is a very effective moisturizer, which is absorbed efficiently on the skin. The ancients knew this and we old time health foodies know it as well. Another great quality of Lanolin is it is a wonderful transporter of other materials, which are mixed with it. So if you add some Calendula to it you would see the Lanolin and Calendula absorbed rapidly.


Sounds Great So What’s The Problem?

Currently, Lanolin is removed from the wool with chemical scouring. In conventional wool production, the wool is dipped in pesticides to kill any mites and parasites, and then it is chemically scoured to remove the lanolin. It is then put through a centrifuge, and then it undergoes a distillation process, which yields the finished lanolin. Conventional lanolin that you would find in your “all-natural” lip and body balm has been through this chemical cocktail processing. Current regulations call for it to contain less than 40 parts per million (ppm) of pesticide residue in order to be applied topically, but who is watching? The Organic Monitoring Research institute admits that it is not clear who is monitoring this 40 ppm of pesticide residue for compliance. You and I both know the answer: NOBODY!!! As of today, there are no International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) standards for lanolin production.  It is a free-for-all and nobody is paying attention to the safety of the finished product.


Lanolin is exposed to a number of pesticides when the wool is dipped. A few of them are: Organochlorine, organophosphate, pyrethroid. Residues of these toxic pesticides in lanolin are well documented. Sheep also ingest low levels of dieldrin. Studies show that the pesticides bind to the lanolin due to its waxy consistency rather than to the wool fiber itself. The pesticides become concentrated in the lanolin. As I said before Lanolin is a great and effective transporter of other materials. So you can be sure that the pesticide laden Lanolin transports all the pesticides into your body in a most efficient way. This is really scary stuff. Imagine finding an excellent carrier of pesticides and adding it to your body and lip balms. Not only do you absorb these toxic substances through your skin you also ingest them in your lip balm.

Because lanolin is a wax it degrades slowly and the pesticides residues are slow to degrade as well. So it is like a time-release dose of toxins. To extract the lanolin from the wool, processers use Methyl chloride as a solvent. There are numerous studies to the toxic effects of this chemical.  Who wants any of that in their body or lip balm?


A strange but true fact, lanolin is currently allowed in Organic Agriculture and has been at the center of some heated debates. Should lanolin be allowed to be used on the teats of organically raised cows?  This would introduce pesticide residue on milking cows and cows feeding calves. This pesticide residue would contaminate the organic milk and milk products. How can you call the milk organic after it has been exposed to these toxic substances? Beats me.

Ep-BEE-Log: Are they trying to pull the wool over our eyes? The debate is still ongoing, but for me it is a no brainer. The use of pesticide laced Lanolin should be outlawed and they should stop trying to fool us by putting this Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing!!!


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