More than half of cosmetics sold in the United States and Canada likely contain high levels of a toxic industrial compound linked to serious health problems, including cancer and reduced birth weight, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Notre Dame tested over 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products, and 47% of mascaras contained levels high fluoride – an indicator of PFAS, called “forever chemicals” that are used in nonstick frying pans, rugs and countless other consumer products.
Some of the highest levels of PFAS were found in waterproof mascara (82%) and long-lasting lipstick (62%), according to the study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. Twenty-nine products with high concentrations of fluorine were further tested and found to contain between four and 13 specific PFAS chemicals, according to the study. Only one item listed PFAS as an ingredient on the label.
The results of the study were announced as a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to ban the use of PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, in cosmetics and other beauty products. The move to ban PFAS comes as Congress considers sweeping legislation to establish a national drinking water standard for certain PFAS chemicals and clean up contaminated sites across the country, including military bases where rates elevated PFAS have been discovered.
The Environmental Protection Agency is also set to collect industry data on the uses of PFAS chemicals and health risks as it considers regulations to reduce the potential risks caused by the chemicals.
“There is nothing safe and nothing good about PFAS,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Who introduced the cosmetics bill with Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine. “These chemicals are a hidden threat in plain sight that people literally put on their faces every day.”
Representative Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Who has sponsored several PFAS-related bills in the House, said she looked for PFAS in her own makeup and lipstick, but couldn’t see if they were present because the products were not correctly labeled. .
“How do I know he doesn’t have PFAS?” She asked at a press conference on Tuesday, referring to the eye makeup, foundation and lipstick she was wearing. âPeople are poisoned every day. “
Graham Peaslee, a physics professor at Notre Dame and the study’s lead investigator, called the results shocking. Cosmetics not only pose an immediate risk to users, but they also create long-term risk, he said. âPFAS is a persistent chemical. When it enters the bloodstream, it stays there and accumulates, âPeaslee said.
The chemicals also pose a risk of environmental contamination associated with manufacturing and disposal, he said.
“This should be a wake-up call for the cosmetics industry,” said David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based nonprofit that has worked to curb PFAS.
The products tested in the study âare used by millions of Americans every day. It is essential that we end all non-essential uses of PFAS, âsaid Andrews.
Synthetic compounds are used in countless products, including non-stick cookware, water-repellent sports equipment, grease-resistant cosmetics and food packaging, and fire-fighting foams.
Public health studies of exposed populations have linked the chemicals to a range of health problems, including some cancers, weakened immunity and low birth weight. Large-scale tests in recent years have revealed high levels of PFAS in many public water supply systems and military bases.
âPFAS chemicals are not needed for makeup. Given their great potential for danger, I don’t think they should be used in any personal care product, âsaid Arlene Blum, study co-author and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, a group of advocacy in Berkeley, California.
A spokeswoman for the US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates cosmetics, did not immediately comment.
The Personal Care Products Council, a trade association representing the cosmetics industry, said in a statement that a small number of PFAS chemicals can be found as ingredients or at traces in products such as lotions, nail polish. nails, eye makeup and foundations. The chemicals are used for the consistency and texture of the product and are subject to FDA safety requirements, said Alexandra Kowcz, the council’s chief scientist.
âOur member companies take their responsibility for product safety and the trust families place in these products very seriously,â she said, adding that the group supported the ban of certain PFASs from being used. in cosmetics. âScience and safety are the foundation of everything we do. “
Blumenthal, a former state attorney general and self-proclaimed âcrusaderâ on behalf of consumers, said he does not use cosmetics. But speaking on behalf of millions of cosmetic users, he said they had a message for the industry: “We trusted you and you betrayed us.”
Brands that wish to avoid likely government regulation should voluntarily do without PFAS, Blumenthal said. âConscious and angry consumers are the most effective advocatesâ for change. “
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