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Study finds more than half of US, Canadian cosmetics contain toxic chemicals

Study finds high levels of PFAS in more than half of commonly-used cosmetic products.
Posted at 3:06 AM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 03:16:12-04

A new study shows that more than half of cosmetic products sold in the U.S. and Canada have high levels of PFAS.

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame published the study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Of the more than 230 commonly-used cosmetics tested, 52% showed high levels of marker toxins for compounds called perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. PFAS are fluorine-based and are known as "forever chemicals" that are used in things like Teflon coating for nonstick frying pans.

Breaking down the study

The study found that foundations, long-lasting lipsticks and eye products like waterproof mascaras contained some of the highest levels of PFAS. Products used for eyebrows and concealer showed lower levels of the compounds.

Study finds high levels of PFAS in common cosmetic products.

It further broke down which brands and product types showed the marker toxins. Some of the most popular brands also had more types of products in which PFAS were found. The chart below sorts the cosmetic products by category as follows:

  • L=lips
  • F=foundation
  • E=eyes
  • M=mascara
  • Fa=face
  • C=concealer
  • Eb=eyebrows
  • Mi=miscellaneous
Dozens of popular name-brand cosmetics contain PFAS.

What is the impact?

Scientists have linked PFAS to several health issues in recent years. Namely, they have been tied to cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, decreased fertility and even hormone disruption.

They believe the PFAS in products like lipstick or mascara work their way into your body through orifices like your mouth or tear ducts and eventually build up in your organs.

Diagram shows how PFAS enter your body.

What is being done about it?

A bipartisan effort to ban toxic chemicals like PFAS from being used in cosmetics is now being weighed by Congress.

The No PFAS in Cosmetics Act was introduced Tuesday by Senators Susan Collins from Maine and Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut, and has backing from several other New England senators, as well as New York's junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand.

According to a press release regarding the introduction of the bill, it would direct the FDA to propose and issue a rule banning the intentional addition of PFAS in cosmetics within 270 days of the bill's enactment and require a final rule to be issued 90 days later.

Under current FDA regulations, companies are required to include ingredients that would explain why PFAS marker toxins are apparent in cosmetics. The study found 88% of those products failed to disclose that information on their labels.