According to a new study by American scientists, many cosmetics that are widely sold in retail chains contain high levels of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — a potentially toxic class of chemicals that are associated with the risk of developing some serious diseases. The article with the results is published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.
Scientists from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana tested more than 200 popular cosmetics sold in the United States and Canada, including foundation creams, lipsticks, eyelashes, and eyebrow products. The results showed that 56 percent of foundation creams and eye products, 48 percent of lipsticks, and 47 percent of mascara contain high levels of fluoride, indicating the use of PFAS substances.
This group includes primarily products that manufacturers describe as “resistant” and “indelible,” since PFAS are often added to increase water resistance and better film formation.
“These results, given the risk of exposure to the consumer, combined with the scale of the multibillion-dollar industry that supplies these products to consumers every day, are of particular concern,” Graham Peaslee, the study’s lead author, said in a press release.
The authors note that PFAS are extremely resistant chemicals that, once in the bloodstream, are poorly excreted and accumulate in the body. In addition to this risk, there is a risk of environmental pollution associated with the production and disposal of these products. The latter factor already affects many people and poses a danger to the biosphere.
Used, in addition to cosmetics, in non-stick cookware, specially coated fabrics, and fast food packaging, PFAS are known as “eternal chemicals” because they do not decompose naturally, remaining in the soil and groundwater for decades. Studies have linked certain PFAS to the risk of cancer, hypertension, thyroid disease, and birth defects in children.
Of the cosmetic products tested by scientists and containing PFAS substances, 29 percent had between four and 13 specific PFAS in their composition, but only one of all the products tested had PFAS listed as an ingredient on the packaging.
“This is a wake—up call,” Peaslee says. — Our measurements indicate widespread use of PFAS in these products, but the full use of fluorinated chemicals in cosmetics is difficult to estimate due to the lack of strict labeling requirements.”
The authors note that after a similar food market study they conducted in 2017, fast food chains that found their products contained PFAS switched to alternatives. Scientists expect the same reaction from manufacturers of cosmetics, as well as other consumer goods that contain PFAS.