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How Dangerous Are Your Cosmetics?

July 17, 2004 | 41,902 views

Most personal care and beauty product consumers would be slightly unnerved to find that the government doesn't require any mandatory testing for these products before they hit store shelves. As a matter of fact, a government agency found out that cosmetic manufacturers could use just about any raw materials in their products and then put them on the market without needing approval by the FDA.

The lack of government involvement has led to companies who manufacture these types of products to not adhere to any testing standards and market products that are considered to cause potentially damaging health risks.

A six-month computer investigation evaluated the safety of over 10,000 personal care product ingredients and included 2,300 people. The investigation revealed the following information on personal care use:

  • Each day, the average adult uses nine personal care products that contain 126 different chemical ingredients

  • Over a quarter of a million women and one out of every 100 men use on the average of 15 products a day

Findings From the Personal Care Safety Assessment

  • Only 28 of the 7,500 products in the study were completely tested by the cosmetic industry's self-regulating panel

  • An astounding one-third of all the products assessed contained at least one ingredient that fell under the classification of human carcinogen

  • 71 percent of the hair dye products evaluated had carcinogenic coal tar as part of their ingredients

  • Almost 70 percent of the products reviewed were found to have ingredients that could be tainted with impurities related to cancer and other health complications

  • 54 percent of the products violated the safety recommendations proposed by the self-regulating Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board. Some examples of the unsafe ingredients in these products were discovered in diaper cream, products on the market for damaged skin such as chapped skin and other ingredients found in spray products

  • Over the course of keeping watch over the cosmetic industry, the FDA has banned a mere nine personal care products

Based on these findings, researchers agreed that the lack of monitoring by the FDA has led to a huge leniency toward the testing of cosmetic ingredients and has resulted in a large portion of products available on the market that pose health risks to the consumers.

Recommendations to Cosmetic Manufacturers by the Environmental Working Group

  • Take out all possible cancer carcinogens and other developmental toxins from products

  • Ensure that ingredients are certified and free of impurities with known possible human carcinogens or developmental toxins

  • Eliminate any ingredients that qualify as harmful or unsafe

Environmental Working Group June 2004


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit public-interest research group known for making connections between chemical exposure and adverse health conditions.

The Washington-based organization has made it easy to calculate your risk of exposure to potentially harmful substances through the personal care products you use.

In its new "Skin Deep" study EWG uses a complex formula to assign a health-risk rating to each of 7,500 personal-care products. The rating system offers a means of quantifying the answer to a controversial question: Just what are we doing to ourselves when we slather stuff on our bodies?

Please don't shrug this issue off.

It is important to recognize that whatever you spread on your skin has a very real chance of being absorbed into your blood stream and causing some serious damage in your body.

Finding your cosmetics risk rating is easy. Just go to the "Skin Deep" report and type in the brand name of your deodorant, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and whatever else you use.

The site will tell you how many ingredients the products collectively contain. The calculator will rate the aggregate health threat those ingredients may pose to you.

Each product is ranked according to its ingredients' potential to:

  • Cause cancer
  • Trigger allergic reactions
  • Interfere with the endocrine (hormonal) system
  • Impair reproduction or damage a developing fetus

Any harmful impurities in the product are also considered. Containing unstudied ingredients or a "penetration enhancer" that helps chemicals get absorbed through the skin also enter into the equation, as does any violation of industry safety recommendations surrounding its use.

Related Articles:

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Make-Up Holds Hidden Danger of Cancer

Do Environmental Chemicals Harm Humans?

Concern Over Deodorants & Breast Cancer

Do You Still Use An Antiperspirant?

The Truth About Antibacterial Soaps--And Why You Should Avoid Them

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