If there’s one thing I didn’t actively spend my time doing when I was younger, it was reading product labels. I threw whatever was convenient into my cart, perhaps glancing quickly at the calories per serving before moving on to the next aisle. I hated cooking, and still do, so boxed foods and pre-made meals were both my go-to and a lifestyle.

As I got older however, I started to take a more vested interest in my overall health. Maybe it was because the speed of my metabolism took a nosedive. Or maybe it was because I finally started listening to my RN mother warn me of scary situations she was seeing in the hospital.

Whatever compelled me to suddenly care for the things I was putting in contact with my body pushed me to read. I read health magazines, articles, and even tweets from reputable accounts to learn what my body needs and what it should actively avoid. And you know what I discovered? There are a lot of products on the market today that don’t live up to the health and safety standards that they should.

Suddenly, ingredient and product labels were my religion, and the FDA and EPA weren’t just meaningless acronyms anymore. They signified my sudden rise in attentiveness to anything I decided to buy and consume in one form or another. While I wish I could confidently trust the products I use to be safe and beneficial to my body, that just isn’t the case. Corporations skirt regulations, government agencies sometimes fail to do their due diligence to prohibit certain products from hitting the market, and ingredients we thought were once harmless can soon enough end up doing more damage to our body than good.

It is of the utmost importance that we regularly read labels, ingredient lists, and recall alerts to become mindful and educated consumers. Start by avoiding these three products to live a healthier life, and be comforted in the fact that it’s never too late to start paying attention.

  1. Formaldehyde in Hair Straightening Products

Over the years, formaldehyde has been used for a number of purposes. You may think of the chemical as an ingredient in glues, resin, or even embalming fluid. But, the EPA classifies it as a probable human carcinogen, and both the CDC and the American Cancer Society warn us of the dangers of airborne formaldehyde, since exposure can cause long-term health risks.

Salon owners and hair stylists have been alerted to the dangers of the chemical’s airborne state because heat from a straightening iron or blow dryer can release the toxic chemicals into the air. Although the chemical is not banned in U.S. products, other countries like Sweden and Japan limit or completely outlaw its use.

  1. Talc in Baby Powder

Since the 1970s, studies have shown a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, a main ingredient in the household product baby powder. Multinational company Johnson & Johnson is at the center of this issue after multiple verdicts were handed down in favor of plaintiffs who contended that their ovarian cancer was caused by long-term use of the product. Most recently, a California court awarded $417 million in reparations on behalf of the plaintiff, the largest amount to date in any of the court cases.

The FDA regulates talc in food products, but there are no such regulations in place for the cosmetics industry. Talc has been banned from beauty products in other countries including those in the European Union, but the mineral ingredient can still be listed on U.S. product labels, so make sure to double-check the makeup and hygiene brands you’re buying.

  1. Arsenic in Wine

Studies have shown that low to moderate alcohol consumption can actually have positive health effects, but make sure that the type of alcohol you choose to imbibe is actually safe. A class-action lawsuit was recently filed against 83 popular wines for containing high levels of arsenic, a chemical that the World Health Organization links to cancer, skin lesions, and other adverse health issues.

Although the health risks attributed to the arsenic present in the wines are still being debated, the lawsuit points to a major discrepancy in regulations for the alcohol industry. The EPA only regulates the arsenic levels of drinking water, yet the wines named in the suit contained four times the legal amount that has been set for water. There is an inverse correlation between the price of a bottle and the levels of arsenic. So, the next time you’re at the liquor store, avoid purchasing any cheap labels if you can.

Being a mindful consumer may mean lingering much longer in the grocery aisle than you’d like, but your health will thank you for the extra time you take to read the product labels before buying.  

Morgan Statt has a background in strategic communication and is the Health & Safety Advocate at ConsumerSafety.org. She writes on a variety of health topics and can often be found looking for the next wellness trend to try. As a native Upstate New Yorker, she spends her free time exploring all the area has to offer. Don’t be surprised if you see her taking pictures of the local eats.