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Toxic Teens: Common Cosmetics Chemicals Alter Hormones, Disrupt Puberty

What price beauty?

Teenage Girls Exposed to Hormone Altering Chemicals During Critical Development of Reproductive System

A new study on teenagers and toxic chemicals was released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and it has some very disturbing implications. Laboratory tests revealed that adolescent girls across America are contaminated with chemicals commonly used in cosmetics and body care products. The study of 20 teens found an average of 13 different hormone-altering chemicals in their bodies.

The laboratory tests found 16 chemicals from 4 different chemical families – phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and musks – in the blood and urine samples of the girls. Studies have linked these chemicals to potential health effects, including cancer and hormone disruption. This work represents the first focused look at exposure data for parabens in teens, and indicates that young women are widely exposed to this common class of cosmetic preservatives, with methylparaben and propylparaben detected in every single girl tested.

Every single girl tested had detectable levels of toxic cosmetics chemicals in their blood or urine!

How is this possible?

  • Federal statutes do not require companies to test products or ingredients for safety before they are sold. Nearly all personal care products contain ingredients that have not been assessed for safety by an accountable agency, and are not required to meet safety standards. Manufacturers can use almost any chemical they want in their products!
  • Adolescent girls typically experiment with increasing numbers and varieties of body care products. The girls studied used an average of 17 personal care products each day, while the average adult woman uses an average of only 12 products daily, increasing their exposure to these chemicals.
  • The Toxic Substances Control Act, which regulates all industrial chemicals in the United States, was created over 30 years ago, and it assumes chemicals in everyday products are innocent until proven guilty. The products we use every day can contain thousands of ingredients that have never been tested for safety.
  • The personal care products industry polices itself through an industry panel called the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR). This is an industry-funded panel of scientists that has reviewed only 11% of all ingredients in cosmetics. An investigation found that the panel ignores serious health concerns such as cancer, birth defects, and hormone disruption, and finds more than 99% of ingredients reviewed safe as used. Companies are not bound by the panel’s restrictions or recommendations, so compliance is entirely voluntary.

“Hormone-altering chemicals shouldn’t be in cosmetics, especially in products used by millions of teenage girls. Their bodies are still developing and may be especially vulnerable to risks from these exposures. Most parents don’t know that the eyeliner, lipstick or shampoo they allow their daughters to use probably contains at least one chemical linked to a number of serious health concerns. Teenage girls are at a particularly vulnerable age and these exposures could trigger a subtle sequence of damaging effects that leads to health problems later in life.” – Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D, author of the report and Staff Scientist at EWG

The Environmental Working Group has put together a shoppers guide to safer cosmetics to print out and take shopping with you, and a searchable cosmetics safety database to help guide purchasing of clean personal care and cosmetics products.

EWG’s safer shopping tips:

  • Use fewer, simpler products
  • Don’t trust claims like “dermatologist-tested,” “natural,” or “organic.” Read the ingredient label instead
  • Take label warnings seriously. They indicate hazardous chemicals.

Related posts about Environmental Working Group:

Image: frida27ponce on Flickr under Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. There’s also a great group called Teens for Safe Cosmetics (http://www.teensforsafecosmetics.org), where teens can get involved in working for safer products. We just brought word of this to local parents (http://apconnect.org/2008/09/26/teens-work-together-for-safe-cosmetics/) in hopes of giving girls a way to do something to make the world a better place in a way that affects and matters to them on a personal, immediate level!

  2. Thanks for informing everyone of our organization. This is very timely because we are launching several chapters in Texas (Austin, Dallas, and Houston) in October and are looking for both teens to join the new chapters and adult mentors to help guide the teens. Love to hear from you if you are interested in getting involved. We have several Green Spa events in Whole Foods Markets in those regions that kick off the chapter. Please go to our website for more information. http://www.teensforsafecosmetics.org. Thanks for passing on this info.

  3. Sarah Lozanova says:

    Parabens are a hard one to get around. I have found them in many of the lotions that I have.

  4. Teens for Safe Cosmetics is going into our ‘counter-marketing’ warchest for Shaping Youth, because it’s amazing how many of these kids (including my own!) are swayed by marketing…

    Even when I went to Teens4sc/Judi’s event locally here at BABIB.org and brought my own teen to hear the toxicity and start testing her own products in the EWG Skin Deep eco-database (which is great, btw: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com) it lasted for awhile until the Sept. peer posse kicked in with their Sephora sojourns. sigh.

    Any ideas on how we can best impart this at a universal level to all ages? It’s soooooo important when we add up the cumulative lotions, cleansers, shampoos, etc. all seeping into our system…(physically AND environmentally!)

    Would love to hear some best practices to get the word out more…Their ‘Project Prom’ was a great one for awareness, but I’m thinking w/school just starting, we need one for ‘homecoming’ too! :-)

  5. One more link for ya, along these lines. I might write it up for ECP as it sounds delish. (“fresh, raw, organic skin and body care”) If anyone has tried them, let me know? Teens4sc folks? https://thebodydeli.com

  6. This is exactly the kind of information that led me down my path to toxin-free makeup. This website is a great source for various certified organic, all natural, mineral makeup & bath products. PoshOrganix.com

  7. Good For You Girls is the first line of 100% natural skincare exclusively for pre-teens and teens. Show her the right way to take care of your skin and body for a lifetime of healthy habits. http://www.goodforyougirls.com

  8. My daughter has been using the skincare brand “face boutique” for the last year. They are leaders in this field, having been focussed on this issue since 2004. They have developed a superb range of paraben/PEG/Pthalate free products for teens and twenty-somethings.

  9. i like this site.

  10. I was unaware of all the chemicals and toxins that are contained in makeup and cosmetics. My daughter isn’t old enough to wear makeup but my niece is. She has turned my wife onto using CURO Mineral Cosmetics. She used to have problems with acne but now her face is clear and everything is all natural. My niece and her friends love it.

  11. Ok, I know this is a long dead topic, but still. Though I am all for regulations on chemicals in just about everything, I am not sure this study really shows anything…

    First off, 20 people is not statistically significant. Even 100 is pushing it. Any study with fewer than several hundred participants is highly susceptible to random flukes in the data.

    Second, there is no control group. Yes, these teens had chemicals in them that are also used in cosmetics, but without a group of teens who haven’t used such tainted cosmetics, there is no way of knowing whether there is even a correlation between usage and chemicals in the body.

    I don’t doubt that what is in those products is harmful, but this study is absolutely worthless.

  12. This is a great resource to finding pure, organic personal care products … it is worth opening our eyes to the “dirty little secrets” of the cosmetic industry.

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