Dangers of Toxic Chemicals in Personal Care Products
Major loopholes in federal law allow the cosmetics industry to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into personal care products with inadequate labeling requirements, no required testing or monitoring of health effects.
Since the FDA does not regulate the use of these products, manufacturers are not even required to disclose some of these toxic chemicals as ingredients on their label.
The billion dollar cosmetic industry permeates our purses, bathrooms, gym and make-up bags with products and chemical mixtures that most people assume are safety tested. However, this is not the case. The government cannot require pre-market safety testing of cosmetic ingredients and research shows that only 11% of the 10,500 chemical ingredients used in personal care products have been assessed for safety.
Surveys indicate that the average adult uses 9 personal care products each day, with 126 unique chemical ingredients. More than a quarter of all women and one of every 100 men use at least 15 products daily.
One of every five adults is potentially exposed every day to all of the top seven carcinogenic impurities common to personal care product ingredients. Women use more products than men, and are exposed to more unique ingredients daily, but men use a surprisingly high number of products. The average woman uses 12 products containing 168 ingredients every day. Men use on average 6 products daily with 85 unique ingredients.
Chemical exposure includes known or probable human carcinogens, known or probable reproductive and developmental toxins, linked to infertility or developmental harm for a baby in the womb or a child. Phthalates are a toxic family of chemicals used in everyday household products and nail polish, lipstick, perfumes and many other personal care products.
Chemical exposures add up. All of these chemicals have an accumulative effect and take their toll on our bodies’ ability to fight off these toxins. Those with existing health issues are even more vulnerable to the onslaught of toxic chemicals. Over time our bodies start breaking down from this chemical overload. Chemicals contained in the products we use every day are absorbed into the blood stream through our skin and mucus membranes. This has been further heightened by companies adding penetration enhancers to their products.
Many ingredients in cosmetics are biologically active, just like drugs and are designed to penetrate the skin like drugs delivered through skin patches. Many of these chemicals have gotten into our bodies, our breast milk and our children. Toxic chemicals have been found in umbilical cord blood and in breast tumor tissues. In Europe, many of these toxic chemicals are banned but most companies in the United States will not voluntarily do this because it will cost them a lot of money.
In October 2005, the Governor of California signed SB 484. Companies will now have to notify the state when they use chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects. The cosmetics industry spent a lot of money to oppose SB 484. This is a victory for California but it is just the first step in addressing these very concerning issues.
“The chemical industry opposed this bill as though it were a peasant revolt rather than a right to know bill,” said Andy Igrejas, Environmental Health Director of the National Environmental Trust. “Now we’ll find out what they were so afraid of.”