Most of us probably do not give much thought to our morning rituals, to the extent that we are even awake during them. But the parade of personal care products Americans use each day—from toothpaste and shampoo to lipstick and aftershave—can affect us more than we realize. At issue are the chemical ingredients they contain and the extent to which they pose any risk to consumers. Just as Americans have developed an appetite for pesticide-free foods and all things organic, so too have they turned their attention to the make up of makeup.
Mounting research on the subject has raised questions and stoked concern about the potential toxicity of certain chemicals and has led to calls for increased regulation of the beauty business. Fragrance, in particular, has become a source of concern due to the unlisted ingredients behind the scents. A study of 17 popular fragrances by the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, advocacy groups focused on exposing products they deem dangerous to health, found 14 undisclosed chemicals, on average. Among them were phthalates, which are used to soften plastic and have been linked to various ailments.
Last week, in fact, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance were lobbying members of Congress to pass the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, which, among other things, would require product labels to list all ingredients and authorize the Food and Drug Administration to recall products and discontinue ingredients that may cause “serious adverse health effects.” The groups are also pressing the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors to recall hair-straightening treatments that contain formaldehyde, a carcinogen that they state jeopardizes the health of salon workers.
[See What Causes Cancer? 7 Strange Cancer Claims Explained.]
The current lobbying activity comes on the heels of new research linking phthalates to type 2 diabetes and childhood obesity. Found in everything from toys to perfume, phthalates belong to a class of chemicals called “endocrine disruptors,” because they interfere with the body’s hormone systems. Other chemicals in this category are Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in plastic and canned foods, and was recently banned in baby bottles by the FDA, and parabens, commonly used to preserve personal care products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed adding eight types of phthalates and BPA to its list of chemicals that “may present an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the environment” and has requested further study of these chemicals from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Like BPA, phthalates aren’t always listed in a product’s ingredients. In fact, phthalates are often grouped under the catch-all ingredient, “fragrance,” rather than separately identified on cosmetic labeling.
[See Phthalates Threat: Less Boy, More Girl.]
Also this month, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that women with the highest levels of certain phthalates in their urine were twice as likely to have diabetes as women whose urine contained the lowest levels. “More research is needed,” states lead author Tamarra James-Todd, who notes in a news release that phthalates exist in personal care products as well as in diabetes treatments, which could explain the correlation.
When it comes to phthalates, as well as parabens and BPA, “we have very suggestive but not definitive data,” states Michael Roizen, internist, anesthesiologist, and chair of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. “If it was definitive, the FDA would have done something about it already,” he says, recommending that the bureau take the “first step” by pressing for better labeling of cosmetic ingredients. Roizen, along with Dr. Oz, with whom he has created the YOU series of health guides, last year launched YouBeauty.com to provide a science-based beauty resource. Its on-line store, BeautySage, notes the ingredients in (and excluded from) products recommended by chemists and consumers. For his part, Roizen tries to avoid products with phthalates. “I think they are putting us at risk for abnormal gene function, which means there probably is a risk of cancer and, in this case, diabetes, and maybe abnormal sexual function as well.”
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Submited at Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 at 8:15 am on Uncategorized by jessica
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