A Harmful Lifestyle: Forever Chemicals Take Over the Makeup Industry
Have you ever used lipstick? Mascara? Or even a foundation? Cosmetics and personal care products make us more confident and outstanding within crowds. Thus, many of us have made them a part of our lifestyle. But what if you found out that these products contain harmful chemicals that could affect us and our environment?
Forever Chemicals: Cosmetics with High-levels of Chemicals
Polyflouroalkyl substances, or simply PFAS, are called “forever chemicals’ ‘ for they don’t break down naturally in our environment. These PFAS chemicals are toxic materials widely used in various cosmetic and personal care products. This has created a long-lasting effect on the American and Canadian environment.
The Environmental Science & Technology published a study where high levels of organic fluorine with over half of 231 makeup and personal care samples showed indicators of PFAS. These chemicals were found in lipsticks (62%), eyeliner, mascara (with 82% of brands tested), foundation (63%), concealer, lip balm, blush, nail polish, and other make-up materials.
What are PFAS and What Exactly Do They Do to Us?
According to the research of the University of Notre Dame, nearly half of the cosmetic products tested by manufacturers contain potentially harmful mixture and compound chemicals called polyflouroalkyl substances (PFAS). These PFAS are a class of 9,000 compounds used in nonstick cookware, cell phones, furniture, and commercial aircraft. The compounds are frequently used to increase the durability and consistency of cosmetics products like lotions, lipsticks, nail polish, foundation, eye shadow, and mascara.
According to Dr Alexis Parcells, PFAs were dubbed as “forever chemicals” for the reason that they do not naturally break down and accumulate builds up within humans.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that high exposures from these chemicals are linked at certain levels to cancer, birth defects, liver disease, thyroid disease, decreased immunity, hormone disruption, and a range of other serious health problems.
According to Luz Claudio, a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, cosmetics and personal care products are not closely regulated in the United States in ensuring their toxic chemical contents. The chemicals are said to be highly mobile and easily move through the environment and within humans by absorption through skin or tear ducts, or by ingestion.
According to the Green Science Policy Institute, Tom Bruton, a senior scientist said that people can accidentally ingest several pounds of the product throughout their lives while wearing lipstick.
Companies Manufacturing Products with PFAS
Many companies have distributed products containing PFAS toxic chemicals worldwide. The study’s authors tested cosmetics made by dozens of brands, including L’Oréal, Ulta, Mac, Cover Girl, Clinique, Maybelline, Smashbox, Nars, Estée Lauder and more.
Companies often do not list PFAS on their labels when they sell the chemicals, making them nearly impossible for consumers to avoid, Bruton said. Regulatory agencies often allow companies to claim PFAS as a trade secret; however, the study found fluorine was often present in products advertised as “wear-resistant”, “long-lasting” and “waterproof”.
Bruton said cosmetic industry literature reviewed by the study’s authors indicated that PFAS were commonly used in cosmetics to make products waterproof, durable and easier to spread. However, the supply chain was “complicated”, he added, and it was unclear whether companies were aware that they were adding toxic chemicals.
Measures By Governments
Although the CDC and FDA enforced safety protocols in awareness of these “forever chemicals”, health advisories are non-binding, non-enforceable limits that are instead meant to inform the public and health officials. Governments should enforce steps in regulating the production of cosmetic and personal care products especially to companies and industries manufacturing these goods.
The US Senate had introduced a bipartisan bill banning chemical use in cosmetics and other industries producing goods with PFAS. Authored by Maine’s Republican Senator, Susan Collins and Democrat Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, the “No PFAS in Cosmetics Act” aims to prohibit any manufacturing and distribution of products containing PFAS or chemicals that endanger the environment and humans.
With this Act, the Food and Drug Administration shall be mandated to ban the chemical and its usage in products within 270 days. “Americans should be able to trust that the products they are applying to their hair or skin are safe,” Collins said in a statement. “To help protect people from further exposure to PFAS, our bill would require the FDA to ban the addition of PFAS to cosmetics products.” In 2020, the European Union has expressed its comprehensive policy in banning the said chemical-containing products to the region’s extent.
Indeed, these aforementioned companies have manufactured and distributed products with PFAS. However, it is up to us, the consumers, to be practical, wise, and cautious in ensuring our health and its betterment. We have to understand that these chemicals are a threat to our health and safety, especially when consumed and absorbed by our bodies. We must check the labels on the cosmetics, skincare, and personal hygiene products that we routinely use.
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