Toxins Found in Teen Cosmetics

A small study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has found that body care products contain carcinogens and hormone-disrupting chemicals, which may be jeopardizing the health of teenage girls.

Twenty teens, ages 14-19, were recruited from eight states across the country. The subjects in this study used, on average, 17 personal care products a day. In total, these products contained 174 cosmetic ingredients. Blood and urine samples taken from the girls were found to contain 16 toxic chemicals, including preservatives, fragrance, and antimicrobial compounds. Many of these chemicals have been found to be harmful to lab animals, and are linked to serious health risks, even at low doses. The teens were also tested for levels of synthetic chemical musks (common fragrance ingredients) and for preservatives called parabens. Both of these materials can act like estrogen when they accumulate in the human body. Substances that mimic estrogen in the body can cause early puberty and increase the risk of breast cancer.

In addition, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, cosmetics have been found to account for 10 percent of all allergic reactions in the U.S.

While the EWG acknowledges that hormone-altering chemicals should not be in cosmetics used by anyone of any age, it specifically highlights their risks to teenagers. Since their bodies are still developing, teens are especially vulnerable to the dangers that exposure to these chemicals may pose, including cancer and damage to reproductive systems. Since teenage girls typically experiment with various body care products, they tend to use a lot more than the average individual. According to the EWG, exposure to the chemicals found in these products can cause a subtle but damaging sequence of effects that can lead to health problems later on in life.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics points to this study as proof that there is currently no regulation of chemicals in cosmetics, and says laws are needed at the state and federal level to keep chemicals out of personal care products. According to the EWG, the FDA does not require that cosmetic products or ingredients be tested for safety before they are sold. Many medical experts say there is no absolute proof that certain beauty products can pose health risks, and some dermatologists think more studies need to be done in order to determine whether certain ingredients are true health risks.

In short, consumers should recognize that most body care products contain suspect ingredients--the ones that the EWG believes cause cancer, birth defects, and endocrine disruption.


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