Cosmetics Containing Toxic Chemicals

People may be absorbing and ingesting potentially toxic chemicals from their cosmetic products, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that foundations, waterproof mascara, lipsticks, and liquid lipsticks had high levels of fluorine. It was possible these chemicals could be PFAS (per- or polyfluoroalkyl substance). It was difficult for consumers not to be aware of the presence of many chemicals on these products, so it is hard to avoid them.

Elsie Sunderland PhD (an environmental scientist not associated with this study) said, "This study has been very helpful in elucidating PFAS content for different types of cosmetics within the U.S.A and Canadian markets."

Sunderland, an environmental chemistry professor at Harvard T.H., said that "previously, all of the data had to be collected in Europe. This study shows that similar problems are being faced in North American markets." Boston Chan School of Public Health

The CDC states that PFAS can be found in a range of consumer goods, including nonstick cookware and stain-resistant carpeting. Researchers said that PFAS are used in cosmetics to increase their durability and spreadability.

Tom Bruton PhD, senior scientist at Berkeley's Green Science Policy Institute says that PFASs are substances added to modify surfaces to prevent them from sticking to water and oils. Cosmetics are cosmetics that you apply to your skin every day. This is a problem because cosmetics can be ingested by others.

According to the CDC some potential effects of PFAS are increased cholesterol and risk of testicular and kidney cancer, altered liver enzymes, reduced vaccine response, lower vaccination rates in children and a greater chance of preeclampsia or high blood pressure in pregnant women.

"PFAS" is one of the many classes of chemicals. Sunderland stated that some chemicals have been linked to impaired immunity function in humans and certain cancers. They also increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and other endocrine disorders. They appear to cause harm to all major organ systems in the body.

The current study was published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters online. Bruton purchased 231 cosmetics in the U.S.A and Canada, from stores such as Target, Ulta Beauty and Sephora. After purchasing the products, Bruton and colleagues tested for fluorine.

High fluorine content was found in three-quarters (75%) of waterproof mascara samples, nearly half the foundations and liquid lips lipsticks tested, and over 50% of eye and lip products.

According to the authors, different makeup types tend to have lower or higher fluorine content. "High fluorine content was found in many products, including waterproof mascaras and foundations that claim to be water- and oil-resistant or long-lasting," Bruton, along with his colleagues, wrote.

Further analysis of the 29 products revealed that at least 4 PFAS were found in each product. Only one cosmetic product was found to contain 13.

Bruton expressed concern that certain products tested may have intentionally used PFAS and not listed the ingredients on their labels. Although I think it is useful for consumers reading labels, beyond that there are not many ways consumers can fix this problem. This group of chemicals is a problem. We believe that industry should be more proactive in moving to a different chemical.

Sunderland stated that the Environmental Working Group is a great resource for people who want to prevent PFAS. This non-profit organization maintains a large database of personal care products and cosmetics.

Sunderland stated that there has been very little regulation of PFAS cosmetics at this time. It would be a good idea for consumers to express their desire to use products free of PFAS. They should also demand greater transparency on ingredient lists.

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency conducted a similar analysis in 2018. It found that PFAS levels were high in almost one-third the products tested.

This can happen when people eat or drink contaminated foods or water, or through the packaging of food. Sunderland stated that some wild foods, such as seafood, can accumulate these compounds.

Sunderland said that there have been cases of biosolids contaminated by PFAS which lead to PFAS buildup in vegetable and milk. Food packaging can lead to PFAS accumulation in foods.

While it is impossible to completely avoid PFAS, the CDC advises reducing your exposure rate by avoiding contaminated foods and drinking water. Ask your local and state health department for information about water quality in your region.