Health Impacts: How Harmful Are the Forever Chemicals Found In Cosmetics

August 9, 2021

A slew of recent investigations into the cosmetic industry has raised concerns about the existence of “forever chemicals” that could be harmful to the body. As a result, chemical companies should monitor manufacturing units and processes to ensure that harmful chemicals are not present in their products.

What are Forever Chemicals

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), better known as “forever chemicals,” are a class of manufactured chemicals that do not break down with time. Instead, they accumulate in the environment and the body over time, which gives them the now infamous name. Forever chemical substances are created by joining carbon and fluorine, resulting in one of the strongest bonds formed in organic processes. Due to this strong bond, PFAS chemicals are used widely to make everyday products resistant to heat, moisture, and stains. In the cosmetics and care chemical industry, PFAS chemicals are used to enhance the product’s spreadability, wear and durability. Chemical supply companies use PFAS chemicals in a diverse range of consumer products, including cookware, stain repellents, pizza boxes, etc. In particular, the new study in the news points out the existence of the substances in cosmetics, which could greatly increase the number of people exposed to the health risks of PFAS.

Are Forever Chemicals Harmful?

Short answer, yes. Preliminary research has linked PFAS exposure to reproductive harm, cancer, tumors, and compromised immune systems. Besides, the US Environmental Protection Agency has also stated that PFAS accumulation in the human body is strongly linked to low infant birth weights and thyroid hormone disruption. Studies also indicate that exposure to PFAS has shown effects on developing fetus, kidney, and reproductive organs. Although the current research data is inadequate to evaluate the exact effects of PFAS on cancer incidence, it is widely held that the chemicals could have a role to play, and therefore exposure should be minimized.

Are there Forever Chemicals in Cosmetics?

Recent studies conducted by the University of Notre Dame have discovered that over half of the cosmetic products tested contain potentially harmful PFAS chemicals. The study looked at over 200 products sold in North America. It also found that the highest concentration of these chemicals is found in everyday cosmetic care products, including lipstick, mascara, and foundation. For example, approximately 82% of mascaras, 63% of foundations, and 62% of liquid lipstick contained concerning levels of PFAS chemicals. Other than these products, concealers, eyeliners, primers, face powders, etc., also showed the presence of high fluoride in them. Since eyes, lips, and skin are particularly vulnerable to absorption of toxic chemicals through the thin mucus membranes or accidental ingestion, even presence in smaller amounts could result in harmful health effects.What next for the Industry?

The new administration has already started initiating regulatory steps to reduce the amount of PFAS substances in products. The industry and the chemical supply companies should keep a close eye on legislative and academic developments around the chemicals. Chemical distributors must take immediate steps to ensure that their products are free from harmful levels of toxic forever chemicals. They should also cooperate with the investigative and regulatory agencies in assessing the PFAS exposure of their end products.


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