New study finds toxic PFAS in hundreds of commonly used cosmetics produced by major US and Canadian brands

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a highly persistent and potentially toxic class of more than 4,700 chemical compounds, were present in most cosmetic products purchased and tested.

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A new study found high levels of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or “forever chemicals,” in hundreds of cosmetic and personal care products widely used throughout the United States and Canada.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a highly persistent and potentially toxic class of more than 4,700 chemical compounds, were present in most cosmetic products purchased and tested. The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, screened 231 different products broken into eight categories for total fluorine using particle-induced gamma-ray emission spectroscopy. According to the study, “foundations, mascaras, and lip products had the highest proportion of products with high total fluorine.”

“Lipstick wearers may inadvertently eat several pounds of lipstick in their lifetimes,” Graham Peaslee, senior author of the study, said. “But unlike food, chemicals in lipstick and other makeup and personal care products are almost entirely unregulated in the U.S. and Canada; as a result, millions of people are unknowingly wearing PFAS and other harmful chemicals on their faces and bodies daily.”

PFAS are added to cosmetics to increase their durability and water resistance, but their harmful health and environment effects has scientists urging for better regulation to “limit the widespread use of PFAS in cosmetics.” According to the study, individual products tested from brands, such as L’Oréal, Mac, Ulta, Cover Girl, Clinique, Nars, Smashbox, and Estée Lauder, contained four to 13 individual PFAS compounds.

Of the cosmetic and body care products tested, the ingredient lists “did not disclose the presence of fluorinated compounds exposing a gap in U.S. and Canadian labeling laws,” according to the study. But a Senate bill introduced on Tuesday by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called the “No PFAS in Cosmetics Act,” aims to ban certain chemicals used in cosmetics.

“Americans should be able to trust that the products they are applying to their hair or skin are safe,” Sen. Collins said. “To help protect people from further exposure to PFAS, our bill would require the FDA to ban the addition of PFAS to cosmetics products.”

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