The following article comes from the The Environmental Working Group.
Have you ever counted how many cosmetics or personal care products you use in a day?
Chances are it's nearly 10.
And chances are good that they include shampoo, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, hair conditioner, lip balm, sunscreen, body lotion, shaving products if you're a man, and cosmetics if you are a woman. And what about your children? On any given day you might rub, spray, or pour some combination of sunscreen, diaper cream, shampoo, lotion, and maybe even insect repellant on their skin.
Most people use these products without a second thought, and believe that the government must certainly be policing the safety of the mixtures in these myriad containers. But they are wrong about this. The government does not require health studies or pre-market testing for these products before they are sold. And as people apply an average of 126 unique ingredients on their skin daily, these chemicals, whether they seep through the skin, rinse down the drain, or flush down the toilet in human excretions, are causing concerns for human health, and for the impacts they may have to wildlife, rivers and streams.
Why personal care products?
At first blush it may seem that mascara and shaving cream have little relevance to the broader world of environmental health. Think again. In August 2005, when scientists published a study finding a relationship between plasticizers called phthalates and feminization of U.S. male babies, they named fragrance as a possible culprit. When estrogenic industrial chemicals called parabens were found in human breast tumor tissue earlier this year, researchers questioned if deodorant was the source. And when studies show, again and again, that hormone systems in wildlife are thrown in disarray by common water pollutants, once again the list of culprits include personal care products, rinsing down drains and into rivers.
At the Environmental Working Group we have researched and advocated on personal care product safety for five years now, and consider it an integral part of our work to strengthen our system of public health protections from industrial chemicals. Here's why:
Industrial chemicals are basic ingredients in personal care products
The 10,500 unique chemical ingredients in these products equate to about one of every eight of the 82,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S. Personal care products contain carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors, plasticizers, degreasers, and surfactants. They are the chemical industry in a bottle.
No premarket safety testing required
This is a reality of both the personal care product industry and the broader chemical industry as a whole. For industrial chemicals, the government approves an average of seven new chemicals every day. Eighty percent are approved in three weeks or less, with or without safety tests. Advocating that industry have an understanding of product safety before selling to the public finds common messages, common methods, and common gains whether the focus is cosmetic ingredients or other industrial chemicals.
Everyone uses personal care products
Exposures are widespread, and for some people, extensive. Our 2004 product use survey shows that more than a quarter of all women and one of every 100 men use at least 15 products daily. These exposures add up, and raise questions about the potential health risks from the myriad of unassessed ingredients migrating into the bodies of nearly every American, day after day.