Chemicals in your cosmetics

12:25 AM, Jun 8, 2009   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida - You probably check your food labels to see what you're eating.

But when it comes to popular products, like shampoo, hairspray and cosmetics you use every day... you may be surprised how many contain toxic chemicals.

In this 10 News Extra, we show you how harsh chemicals banned in Europe, are still being used here.... and an easy way to find safer, everyday products for your family.

As 18-year-old Taylor Traviesa gets ready for a graduation party, she goes through a beauty routine she's been following for years.

Taylor Traviesa, St. Petersburg Teenager
“I use around 12 to 15 products if I want to know that I look somewhat good. That's from the lotion to hairspray to shampoo to all my make-up.”

It's not easy understanding what's in them...

Taylor Traviesa, St. Petersburg Teenager
“Octala… half of them I can't even pronounce.”

or how chemicals in those different products might impact her body.

Taylor Traviesa, St. Petersburg Teenager
“If you can buy it at a drugstore, I would assume it's safe.”

You might think the Food & Drug Administration requires hairspray, nail polish and cosmetic companies to do extensive safety testing before their products hit the store shelves, but that's not the case.

On the FDA's website, it states “Cosmetics and their ingredients are not required to undergo approval before they are sold. Manufacturers can use any ingredient, except for 10 prohibited substances, without government review.

But in Europe, the laws are much tougher. Nearly 1200 toxic chemicals are banned from cosmetics.

Here at home, chemicals such as some phthalates require cosmetic warning labels in California, but not in any other state.

Dr. Steven Masley, Medical Director Carillon Executive Health Program at St. Anthony's Hospital:
“The phthalates we know are associated with reproductive problems, cancer risk, metabolism issues. Phthalates, which are very common in cosmetics, are a significant known risk and they're still sold here everyday.”

They're sold in the U.S. in products such as OPI nail polish to make it flexible and chip resistant.

But when the polish is sold in Europe, the tougher standards mean the company has to remove the phthalate.

Dr. Steven Masley, Medical Director Carillon Executive Health Program at St. Anthony's Hospital:
“If you're going to put a chemical compound on your skin and it's in contact with your skin, you're likely to absorb it.”

Dr. Steven Masley with Carillon Executive Health says even at low exposure, a daily dose of different chemicals can add up over a lifetime.

Dr. Steven Masley, Medical Director Carillon Executive Health Program at St. Anthony's Hospital:
“Low exposure over long-term can be enormous. Low exposure for someone who doesn't remove chemicals well... their parents had Parkinson's, they're chemically sensitive they may not be able to remove it and they accumulate it. It's enormous.
The bottom line is the more things you use, the more it behooves you to check out the safest products in these lines whether it's nail polish, hairspray or deodorant to make sure you're making the best choices."

There is a website that makes it easy for you to understand which products are safer (link below).

You can type in the name of your favorite product to see if it gets a green light, which means the ingredients are of low health concern, or a red light, which means higher chemical concern.

The Environmental Working Group, a non profit, research based, consumer advocacy group compiled an electronic database of ingredient labels for 25,000 name brand products and cross linked it with 37 toxicity or regulatory databases.

When EWG analyzed the database results they found:

  • More than one-third of all personal care products contain at least one ingredient linked to cancer.
  • 57 percent contain “penetration enhancer” chemicals that can drive other ingredients faster and deeper into the skin to the blood vessels below.
  • 70 percent of all products contain ingredients that may contain harmful impurities such as known carcinogens, according to FDA or industry reviews. Impurities are legal and unrestricted for the personal care products industry.

Dr. Masley says, while some studies suggest chemicals in cosmetics can mimic estrogen and increase your risk of cancer, he says the bottom line is we're guinea pigs. There are no long term exposure studies that have been done on humans.

The FDA maintains it's not clear what effect, if any, phthalates have on health.

Taylor says she isn't ready to give up her cosmetics, but she is willing to search the database to find safer options.

Taylor Traviesa, St. Petersburg Teenage:
“I would have no idea that something in my body lotion or the shave gel might actually be harmful.”

Check out chemicals and health concerns in your favorite products.

Find safer options:
http://ewg.org/reports/skindeep/

See if your favorite cosmetic company agreed to remove ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other negative effects:
http://www.safecosmetics.org/companies/signers.cfm

*787 cosmetic companies, including The Body Shop, Aubrey Organics & Burt's Bees promised to replace ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other negative health effects with safer alternatives.

*Aubrey Organics is a local company that has been making synthetic free hair and skincare products for 40 years.
http://www.aubrey-organics.com/about/about_company.cfm

The Breast Cancer Fund says studies show half of breast cancer causes are environmental:
http://www.breastcancerfund.org/site/pp.asp?c=kwKXLdPaE&b=43969

Also we received a statement from OPI concerning these chemicals. It says:

There is no cause for concern regarding the safety of cosmetic ingredients, including those of OPI. All products and treatments produced and sold by OPI, including nail polish, have been substantiated for safety as required under federal law by the US Food and Drug Administration and qualified scientists, and found to be safe.

We believe, based on our rigorous testing methods and documented scientific studies on these ingredients, that OPI products -- whether used once or over a lifetime - are safe for use by consumers. These are the same ingredients used by all leading professional brands.

OPI is proud of our safety record and is constantly re-examining all available scientific information in regards to our products/ingredients. OPI is dedicated to working closely with the regulators at FDA, federal and state policymakers, the Consumer Federation of America, and others who are committed to objectively using the best science to ensure the safety of our products.

UPDATE: OPI has agreed to remove phthalates from all of its nail products.

Heather Van Nest, Heather's Natural Health, 10 Connects News

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