Hormone-disrupting Cosmetics Chemicals Found in Teen Girls

For Immediate Release: September 26th, 2008 Contact: Nicole Makris, 415-346-8223 x27, nmakris@breastcancerfund.org

Hormone-disrupting Cosmetics Chemicals Found in Teen Girls

SAN FRANCISCO – Teenage girls across America are contaminated with hormone-disrupting chemicals found in cosmetics and body care products, confirms a new study released this week by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a founding member of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The report is available at http://www.ewg.org/reports/teens.

The first-of-its kind study found 16 toxic chemicals in blood and urine samples from 20 teen girls from eight states and the District of Columbia, aged 14-19, including preservatives, fragrance and antimicrobial compounds. Many of these are linked to serious health risks in lab animals, even at low-dose levels.

“Hormone-altering chemicals shouldn’t be in cosmetics, especially in products used by millions of teenage girls,” said Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D, author of the report and Staff Scientist at EWG. “Their bodies are still developing and may be especially vulnerable to risks from these exposures,” added Sutton.

The young women participating in this study were recruited from locations across the U.S. and represent diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They used an average of nearly 17 personal care products per day that contain a total of 174 unique cosmetic ingredients.

“The findings of this study are further evidence that our system of regulating chemicals in cosmetics is broken. We need smarter laws at the state and federal level to keep hazardous chemicals out of personal care products,” said Lisa Archer, National Coordinator of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Teenagers are being exposed during a critical period of development to toxic chemicals in products they use every day. Being a teenager is hard enough – girls shouldn’t have to worry about their beauty products contributing to their risk of cancer or damaging their reproductive systems.”

The study provides the first data available from teens on levels of synthetic chemical musks, common fragrance ingredients that accumulate in people and act like estrogen in the body, and preservatives called parabens that also mimic estrogen. Chemicals that act like estrogen can contribute to early puberty and an increased breast cancer risk.

The FDA does not require companies to test products or ingredients for safety before they are sold. As a result, nearly all body care products contain ingredients that have not been assessed for safety by any federal agency, and many contain chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and endocrine disruption.

“Most parents don’t know that the eyeliner, lipstick or shampoo they allow their daughters to use probably contains at least one chemical linked to a number of serious health concerns,” said Sutton. “Teenage girls are at a particularly vulnerable age and these exposures could trigger a subtle sequence of damaging effects that leads to health problems later in life.”

Teenagers, their parents and other consumers can consult EWG’s Skin Deep online database to learn more about unsafe chemicals in cosmetics and how to make safer choices about the products they purchase for themselves and their families. They can also visit www.SafeCosmetics.org for an overview of current laws and to join the growing movement to demand stronger government regulation and oversight of the $50 billion cosmetics industry.


EWG is a not-for-profit group that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment by researching pollution in food, water, air and people.

Founding members of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics include the Breast Cancer Fund, Friends of the Earth, Women's Voices for the Earth, Environmental Working Group, National Environmental Trust, National Black Environmental Justice Network, Health Care Without Harm and Commonweal.