4 MYTHS ABOUT COSMETIC SAFETY

from Environmental Working Group                                               MYTH:  If it’s for sale at a supermarket, drugstore, or department store cosmetics counter, it must be safe.      FACT:  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts pre-market reviews only for certain color additives and active ingredients in cosmetics classified as over-the-counter drugs.

 It has no authority to require companies to test products for safety.  The agency neither reviews nor approves the vast majority of products or ingredients before they go on the market.

MYTH:  The cosmetics industry effectively polices itself, making sure all ingredients meet a strict standard of safety.     FACT:  The recommendations of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), the industry’s safety panel, are not binding on companies.

In its 30+ years, the panel has assessed fewer than 20 percent of cosmetic ingredients on the market and found only 11 ingredients or chemical groups to be unsafe.

MYTH:  The government prohibits dangerous chemicals in cosmetics.  Companies wouldn’t risk using them.     FACT:  Cosmetic companies can use any ingredient or raw material, except for color additives and a few prohibited substances, without government review or approval.

As a result, more than 500 products sold in the US contain ingredients banned in cosmetics in Japan, Canada or the European Union. 

Nearly 100 products contain ingredients considered unsafe by the International fragrance Association. 

A wide range of nanomaterials whose safety is in question may be common in cosmetics. 

22% of all personal care products, including many children’s products, may be contaminated with the cancer-causing impurity, 1,4-dioxane. 

60% of sunscreens contain the potential hormone disruptor oxybenzone that readily penetrates the skin and contaminates the bodies of 97% of Americans.  

61% of tested lipstick brands contain residues of lead. 

MYTH:  Cosmetic ingredients applied to the skin rarely get into the body.  When they do, levels are too low to matter.     FACT:  Studies find evidence of health risks because personal care products commonly contain penetration enhancers to drive ingredients deeper into the skin.  Also, people breathe in sprays and powders, swallow chemicals on the lips or hands and absorb them through the skin. 

Biomonitoring analyses find phthalate plasticizers, paraben preservatives, the pesticide triclosan, synthetic musks and sunscreens as common pollutants in men, women and children.  Many of the chemicals are potential hormone disruptors. 

Studies find health problems in people exposed to common fragrance and sunscreen ingredients.  The problems include elevated risk for sperm damage, feminization of the male reproductive system and low birth weight in girls. 

Because federal law permits companies to omit labeling of many chemical ingredients, you may want to check the safety of the cosmetics you use on Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database of 69,000 cosmetics at http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Coming up:  5 more myths

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