New study finds alarming amount of toxic chemicals in cosmetics

NOW: New study finds alarming amount of toxic chemicals in cosmetics

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It might be time to rethink your makeup routine! A new study from the University of Notre Dame showing many cosmetics in the U.S. and Canada likely contain high levels of PFAS, a potentially toxic class of chemicals that link to a number of serious health conditions. The study tested more than 200 cosmetics including concealers, foundations eye and eyebrow products and various lip products.

The results found 56% of foundations, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras were found to contain high levels of fluorine, which is an indicator of PFAS. All of these cosmetics are applied around the eyes and mouth which face potential absorption through the skin or tear duct, as well as inhalation and ingestion.

The study tested products from Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Target and Bed Bath and Beyond, with some Canadian shipments from Sephora and Shopper Drug Mart as well. Because of the vastly large number of cosmetics available with only a sample size of just over 200, the study does not reveal the brand name used. However, most of the high levels of PFAS found were in products that are advertised as ‘waterproof’ or ‘long lasting.’

The study hopeful to encourage the cosmetic industry to test their products, and inform consumers on what it contains.

“What we made in this paper is some alarming things, well one it is so widely used in over half the things we looked at. The second part is a smart consumer would read the label and avoid it, it is not possible to do that, it is not on the label. That is the difference between us and Europe who has strict labeling laws, ours are not necessarily enforced, so it is up to the companies to know what they are putting in the product and tell us,” says Graham Peaslee, Professor of Physics at Notre Dame.  

PFAS is a ‘forever chemical’ meaning it does not naturally degrade. It has frequently been found in nonstick cookware, fast food wrappers and PPE. However, because of its longevity, it can contaminate groundwater for decades. The chemical has been linked to kidney cancer, hypertension, thyroid disease, low birth weight and immunotoxicity. Experts say some cosmetic companies might not even realize PFAS is in their products.

“Where does it go? Well some of it you put on your face, some of it you accidentally ingest or it might go through skin absorption or tear duct. But 90% of your mascara never reaches your face, it dries off because you left the lid off one day, and it is in the bottle and you throw it off into the landfill or its on your face and you wash it off and it goes down the drain. Both of these things add it into the environment and these are forever chemicals. They recycle, so they end up in the drinking water of us and our children,” says Professor Peaslee.

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