Are Cosmetics Risky for Teens?

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Oct. 2, 2008 — A nonprofit group’s report on certain chemicals in cosmetics and body care products is raising eyebrows, with the nonprofit group sounding the alarm and the cosmetics industry standing by cosmetics’ safety.

The controversial report comes from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization that focuses on health problems that it attributes to a “wide array of toxic contaminants.”

In the new report, 20 teenage girls from 18 U.S. cities provided urine samples, blood samples, and a list of the cosmetics and body care products they use. Those samples were screened for 25 chemicals used in many cosmetics and body care products

Sixteen of the chemicals — including phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and musks — turned up in the girls’ blood and urine samples. “Each young woman had between 10 and 15 chemicals in her body; 9 of these chemicals were found in every single teen tested,” the report states.

The study isn’t about the girls’ health; the researchers didn’t look for any effects that those chemicals may have had on the girls.

But because teen bodies are still developing, “teens may be particularly sensitive to exposures to trace levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals like the ones targeted in the study,” the report states.

“Hormone-altering chemicals shouldn’t be used in cosmetics, especially in products used by millions of teenage girls,” EWG scientist Rebecca Sutton, PhD, says in a news release; Sutton wrote the EWG’s report, which is posted on the EWG’s web site.

Cosmetics Industry Responds

The Personal Care Products Council, a trade group for the cosmetic and personal care products industry, says the study is flawed.

“EWG has chosen to publish data that support its agenda rather than providing a full picture of the body of scientific research on these issues. There are hundreds of scientific studies that have evaluated the health impact of these ingredients,” council spokeswoman Kathleen Dezio says on the council’s web site.

“We stand behind the safety of our products and believe the consensus of opinion in the scientific community supports the conclusion that our products are safe,” Dezio says.

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