|Why Are Cosmetics in Question?|
The average woman uses around 12 beauty products per day. We are led to believe that using certain lauded beauty products will miraculously rejuvenate our skin and delay the signs of ageing. The reality is that up to 70 per cent of what we apply to our skin is absorbed into our bodies and this is worrisome given that beauty and personal care products contain a cocktail of synthetic chemicals, many of which have not been thoroughly evaluated for safety.
In the UK alone the cosmetics industry is worth over £6.5 billion. Of the 75,000+ industrial chemicals registered for use the top ten cosmetic companies in the US use more than 10,000 of these.
Clearly beauty is a big business. Our obsession with eternal youth, both fuelled to a degree and maintained by the media, makes us prime targets for pitching quick fix beauty products that retort at the notion of growing old gracefully. Yet, their proclamations belie their true nature, because lurking within the cleverly crafted packaging and disguised by pleasant scents is a cocktail of toxic and potentially toxic synthetic chemicals, including carcinogens (cancer causing substances), teratogens (causing birth defects), developmental/reproductive toxicants (affecting the normal development of the foetus, or damaging reproductive tissues and endocrine disruptors (interfering with normal hormone functioning). Some of the chemicals used in cosmetics, along with other consumer items can also cause allergic reactions, contact dermatitis, photosensitivity, asthma, learning difficulties, central nervous system problems and a myriad of other health problems. These are often the very same ingredients that are used in disinfectants, explosives, pesticides, plastics, textile printing, packaging, fuel for cigarette lighters, industrial degreasants, anti-freeze and a cornucopia of other industries and consumer products. Teflon, for instance, used for its stain and stick resistant properties in products such as saucepans, is also used in make-up, despite containing the animal carcinogen perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
In 1988 the US Congress issued a request to the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to match a list of 3,000 chemicals that were claimed to be cosmetics against a database of toxicity information held by NIOSH. Around 900 of these had toxicity data in the database.
We flush chemicals down the toilet and the drain where they enter sewage treatment facilities and some of these chemicals make their way into the environment, particularly where untreated sewage is discharged into rivers and oceans. Dr Daughton of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (an agency of the federal government charged in 1970 with safeguarding human health and the environment), has suggested that exposure to personal care products may be more chronic than pesticides because they are constantly released into the environment in places where humans reside or visit.
As Elizabeth Salter-Green, former director of WWF-UK's Toxics Programme and current director of Chem Trust points out, "The ingredients used for cosmetics are the fraction of oil and gas these industries could not make into petrol and aviation fuel." Many of the chemicals used in cosmetic products and other consumer items are derived from petroleum, which seems crazy when you consider what we already know about the consequences of global warming and our reliance on polluting fossil fuels. Yet still the addiction to oil does not abate, despite its devastating effects on our planet and the health of our human population.
Safety is the issue