According to the Environmental Working Group, one in five cosmetic products may be contaminated with carcinogens. Those are impurities that raise the risk of cancer.
Many of these carcinogens are hiding on the product label behind the term fragrance. Although manufacturers must list all ingredients in skin care and hair care products, in many countries including the United States, they can list fragrance as a general category instead of detailing each ingredient.
This is a problem because fragrances can themselves be comprised of complicated mixtures of hundreds of chemicals, some of which can be dangerous. Many well-known fragrance components have been linked to allergies, skin reactions, endocrine and hormone disruption, and even birth defects.
For example, phthalates are plasticizing agents that can cause birth defects in the reproductive system of boys and lower sperm-motility in adult men. Phthalates were found in nearly three-quarters of 72 products tested recently by the Environmental Working Group, although the term “phthalate was not listed on any of the product labels.
As a result of consumer pressure, LOreal, Revlon, Estee Lauder, and Unilever have recently agreed to remove two phthalates, DEHP and DBP, from their products sold worldwide. A great many other manufacturers, however, continue to sell skin and hair care products that contain these toxic ingredients.
Other products include artificial musks. In laboratory studies, these have been linked to skin irritation, hormone disruption, and cancer. Many fragrances can also cause asthma and trigger asthma attacks.
In early 2007, a cancer-causing petrochemical was found in dozens of childrens bath products and adults personal care products, in some cases at levels more than twice the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) recommended maximum. Laboratory tests revealed the presence of 1,4-Dioxane in products such as Hello Kitty Bubble Bath, Huggies Baby Wash, Johnsons Baby Wash, Scooby-Doo Bubble Bath and Sesame Street Bubble Bath. The tests also found the carcinogen in Clairol Herbal Essences shampoo, Olay Complete Body Wash and many other products for adults.
1,4-Dioxane is a petroleum-derived contaminant considered a human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Toxicology Program. It is also on Californias Proposition 65 list of chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects.
Based upon its research the Environmental Working Group estimates that 1,4-Dioxane could be present in up to 43% of all body firming lotions, 36% of facial moisturizers, 35% of anti-aging products, 34% of body lotions and 33% of eye creams.
In 2000, the FDA recommended that cosmetic products not contain 1,4-Dioxane at concentrations greater than 10 parts per million; yet 15% of products tested exceeded these guidelines. This limit, however, also does not take into account that people exposed to 1,4-Dioxane from shampoo may be exposed at the same time to 1,4-Dioxane from bubble bath, body wash and other products.