The toxicity Twelve Chemicals and Contaminants in Cosmetics

By Scott Faber, senior Vice president of government Affairs

Updated Tuesday, might 5, 2020

Chemicals and also contaminants connected to cancer have the right to be found in food, water and many other daily products. However, no classification of consumer products is topic to less federal government oversight 보다 cosmetics and other an individual care products. Although many of the chemicals and also contaminants in cosmetics and personal care products likely pose tiny risk, exposure come some has been connected to serious health problems, consisting of cancer.

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Since 2009, 595 cosmetics manufacturers have reported using 88 chemicals, in an ext than 73,000 products, that have actually been attached to cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.<1>

Many of this chemicals have to be banned from cosmetics, together proposed in California Assembly bill 2762, the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act. Among the toxicity chemicals<2> that have to be prohibition are:

Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.Paraformaldehyde, a form of formaldehyde.Methylene glycol, a form of formaldehyde.Quaternium 15, which releases formaldehyde.Mercury, i m sorry can damages the kidneys and nervous system.Dibutyl and also diethylhexyl phthalates, i beg your pardon disrupt hormones and damage the reproductive system.The long-chain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances well-known as PFAS, which have actually been attached to cancer.M- and also o-phenylenediamine, offered in hair dyes, i m sorry irritate and sensitize the skin, damage DNA and can reason cancer.

All that these toxic chemicals have been prohibition by the europe Union and also many other nations, and also many have been slated for removal indigenous the store brands of major U.S. Retailers, consisting of Target, Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS Health.<3> For example, as of the finish of 2019, CVS wellness prohibits the use of formaldehyde, countless chemicals that relax formaldehyde, countless parabens, dibutyl phthalate and also diethylhexyl phthalate. Several of these are already banned from commodities sold in whole Foods.<4>

Some that the chemicals contained in A.B. 2762 carry out not have to be discover on the package, because they are components of fragrance and so are exempt from commonwealth labeling requirements. In particular, 2 phthalates consisted of in A.B. 2762 – dibutyl phthalate and diethylhexyl phthalate – might be had in combine of chemicals disclosed on the label as fragrance however do not need to be disclosed as individual chemicals.

Dibutyl phthalate is an endocrine disruptor and also a developmental toxicant that hurts male reproductive mechanism development. That can cause early puberty in boys and also other alters in the reproductive system. Diethylhexyl phthalate harms the reproductive system and also can impact the arising fetus. The has also been share by the International agency for study on Cancer as probably carcinogenic.<5>

The cosmetics industry has grown dramatically because 1938, when Congress last enacted cosmetics legislation, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. At the time, the cosmetics market reported approximately $1 billion in sales.<7> In 2016, it reported much more than $169 billion in sales.<8> Nevertheless, just two pages that the 829-page plot governs cosmetics, and also those provisions administer the Food and Drug administration no jae won resources and sharply limit its authority to manage chemicals and contaminants the pose chronic risks.<9> 

Although conference has because then given the FDA the power to ensure that food additives,<10> color additives<11> and pesticides<12> pose “no harm” indigenous repeat exposures, Congress has not provided the agency the very same authority to manage the chronic dangers posed by chemicals and contaminants in cosmetics. Instead, the FDA mainly relies ~ above the personal care products industry to control itself as a way to attend to the risks its assets pose.

Consumers use a wide range of cosmetics and an individual care products. Couple of consumer products contribute as countless chemical exposures as cosmetics and other personal care products. Each day, American women use an mean of 12 an individual care assets that contain 168 various chemicals. Men use an typical of six personal care assets that contain 85 various chemicals.<13> Many that these commodities are applied directly come the skin, the body’s biggest organ, where ingredients deserve to be took in directly into the bloodstream.<14>

Consumer usage of cosmetics continues to flourish dramatically. Since 2010, the U.S. Cosmetics market has actually grown an average of 4.1 percent annually, and internet sales have expanded to account for 8.4 percent that the complete market share.<15> 

Cosmetic imports are additionally on the rise. In budget year 2016, 2.9 million present of cosmetics were imported into the U.S. Indigenous 181 various countries.<16> Lines of cosmetic imports doubled end the previous decade, v a comprehensive increase after ~ FY 2011.<17> Cosmetic imports indigenous China boosted by 79 percent in between FY 2011 and FY 2016.

Although many chemicals in cosmetics pose little or no risk, some have actually been linked to serious wellness problems, consisting of cancer, reproductive and also neurological harm, and also developmental delays. Cosmetics chemicals enter the body through the skin, inhalation, ingestion and internal use, and pose the same dangers as food chemicals.<18> In enhancement to the dangers posed by intentionally included ingredients, cosmetics have the right to be contaminated with heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and also nickel.

Some chemicals offered in an individual care commodities pose risks at an extremely low doses<22> and deserve to interfere v the hormone system.<23> Research shows that “endocrine disrupting” chemistry such as parabens and also phthalates may pose the biggest risk throughout prenatal and early postnatal development, when organ and neural systems form.<24> Exposure to this chemicals has been connected to endocrine diseases and some types of cancer.<25> For example, endocrine disruptors are known to affect how women’s bodies use estrogen and thus have actually been attached to breast cancer.<26> research study has also shown the endocrine disruptors can injury the immune device – an effect that provides us more susceptible to an illness and viruses.

Many cosmetics have additionally been attached to acute risks, including burns and also infections. Formaldehyde-based hair-straightening procedures, referred to as “keratin treatments,” have actually been linked to hair loss, rashes, blisters, nosebleeds, bleeding gums and loss of taste and also smell.<27> Other cosmetics have caused hair loss.<28> 

The FDA continues to discover cosmetics contaminated with bacteria, consisting of body wash, face powders, shadows and also lotions, or comprise banned colors chemicals, consisting of shampoos, soaps, cleaners and temporary tattoos.<29>

Under the current law, the FDA has small authority to review chemicals in cosmetics and other personal care productsPersonal care products companies perform not have to register through the FDA, administer the FDA with ingredient statements, adopt great Manufacturing Practices, or GMPs, report adverse events to the FDA, or carry out the FDA with accessibility to security records.

The FDA walk not have the power to suspend it is registered or order recalls when assets pose a threat of significant adverse health consequences or deathBy contrast, manufacturers that food, drugs and medical tools must register with the FDA, maintain and also give the FDA access to records and report disadvantage events. If food, medicine or tools are unsafe, the FDA have the right to suspend production and also product licenses. If unsafe food or devices reach the market, the FDA deserve to order a recall and also take legal action against drugmakers that execute not recall their products.<30>

Of an ext than 10,000 chemicals supplied to build cosmetics, just 11 have ever been prohibition or restricted by the federal Food and also Drug Administration. Through contrast, the FDA, the ecological Protection agency and the consumer Product safety and security Commission have broad authority to ensure the safety and security of chemicals in other consumer products.

For example, the FDA has the authority to evaluation chemicals in prescription<31> and over-the-counter drugs,<32> and chemicals discovered in food,<33> and the EPA has the authority to evaluation chemicals in pesticides supplied in homes and on farms<34> and to set limits because that pesticide residues on food.<35> In 2016, Congress increased EPA government to evaluation chemicals in cleaners, paints, solvents and also many other customer products.<36>

The U.S. Has likewise fallen much behind our global trading partners in the regulation of cosmetics. An ext than 40 nations have actually taken steps to half or restrict, in combination, more than 1,400 chemicals or contaminants in cosmetics and personal care products, including chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive harm and also neurological harm.<37> 

All that the chemicals figured out in A.B. 2762 have already been banned by the EU, including isopropylparaben and isobutylparaben, dibutyl phthalate and diethylhexyl phthalate,<38> mercury,<39> formaldehyde and also many PFAS. Other nations have minimal the visibility of chemistry such as formaldehyde<40> and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).<41>


The cosmetics industry has long fought coherent oversight. Because the early 1950s, that has beat efforts by conference to modernize cosmetics law.<42> Since 2015, part cosmetics companies have actually supported giving the FDA the authority and resources come review and regulate chemicals and also contaminants of problem in cosmetics, and have sustained requiring manufacturers come register, provide ingredient statements, take on GMPs and also report adverse events.

Some providers have additionally supported offering FDA the power to suspend production of attention products and also order causing obligation recalls.<43> However, various other companies have actually not sustained FDA review and oversight.


Consumers overwhelmingly assistance federal monitor of cosmetic chemicals. Two-thirds the consumers think chemicals in cosmetics are currently reviewed by the FDA, according to polling conducted by American Viewpoint and the Mellman group in 2016.<44> Three-fourths of consumers – regardless of age, race or party affiliation – support stricter oversight of chemistry in cosmetics, and virtually nine in 10 take into consideration stricter rules an extremely important.

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In addition, ripe in 10 consumers believe cosmetic companies should need to notify the FDA if their assets harm consumers; support offering the FDA mandatory recall authority; and also support rule ensuring cosmetics are produced in clean environments.