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Sugar and spice and toxins: teen girls exposed to chemicals in beauty products

September 25th, 2008

By Barbara Kessler

Some not so pretty news out about cosmetics this week shows that teen girls tested for chemical exposure from beauty products had become human repositories of parabens, phthalates, triclosan and musks.

These chemicals, some of which are hormone disruptors or have been linked to cancer, turned up in the blood and urine of 20 teenage girls tested by the Environmental Working Group.

On average, the girls, ages 14-19, tested positive for 13 hormone-disrupting chemicals each. Parabens, commonly used as cosmetic preservatives, were detected in every girl tested.

While it remains unclear how dangerous these toxins, absorbed in minute amounts, really are, scientists worry that their effects could compound over time.

The study found that the participating teen girls used some 17 products every day, more than even adult women (who average 12 products in a day), raising their cumulative exposure to these potentially harmful substances at a time when their reproductive, immune, metabolic and adrenal systems are maturing.

“Emerging research suggest that teens may be particularly sensitive to exposures to trace levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals like the ones targeted in this study,” noted the EWG news release.

The EWG, a non-profit based in Washington, called for the federal government to set safety standards for cosmetics, which include many ingredients that are not tested by any independent agency. The group advised teens to:

  • Reduce the number of beauty products they use
  • Use paraben-free skin products, shampoos and sunscreens. Parabens can mimic estrogen, interfering with reproductive health and some studies have linked them to breast cancer.
  • Seek out fragrance-free beauty products to reduce exposure to musks, which may disturb the body’s ability to fend off toxins; and to reduce exposure to phthalates, linked to a host of medical problems including infertility issues.
  • Avoid products labeled “antibacterial” particularly hand soaps with triclosan listed as an active ingredient on the label. Switch to an alcohol hand rub or use regular soap and water instead. Triclosan has been found to disrupt the thyroid system, which can affect brain development in the young, and is suspected of contributing to the development super-strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Use the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to inform your product choices. EWG also maintains the public Skin Deep database to help consumers find safer products.

To learn more about the uses and effects of the chemicals tested, see the EWG’s notes on phthalates, triclosan, parabens and musks, and the detailed report on the study.

Copyright © 2008 | Distributed by Noofangle Media



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