I have previously blogged about the potential for contamination of popular makeup brands with asbestos. But if that wasn’t bad enough, a new peer-reviewed research study reveals that asbestos is not the only makeup contaminant of concern. Testing done on 231 samples of popular makeup products, including lipstick, mascara and foundation, has revealed widespread contamination of more than half of these products with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. Dubbed “forever chemicals” because they practically never break down in the environment and continue to accumulate in our bodies, PFAS are man-made chemicals that are widely used in the production of a host of products such as food packaging, clothing and carpeting. PFAS are toxic to humans and have been linked to everything from cancer to birth defects, liver disease, thyroid disease, decreased immunity, hormone disruption and a range of other serious health problems.
The study tested cosmetics made by dozens of leading brands, including those by Maybelline, Cover Girl, L’Oréal, Ulta, Estée Lauder, Mac, Smashbox, Clinique, Nars and more. Unfortunately, the study’s authors did not disclose which of these brands use PFAS in their manufacturing, not wanting to single any particular companies out. Nevertheless, one can glean from the study that makeup products of all types (including foundation, mascara, eyeliner, concealer, blush, lipstick, lip balm, and nail polish) that were advertised as “wear-resistant,” “long-lasting” and “waterproof” most frequently contained high levels of organic fluorine, a telltale indicator of PFAS contamination. PFAS are highly mobile, move through the environment with ease and can be absorbed through skin, tear ducts or by mouth. In fact, as Green Science Policy Institute has noted, lipstick wearers can end up ingesting several pounds of PFAS over the course of their lives.
However, it is nearly impossible for the consumer to know whether their favorite makeup is contaminated with PFAS because regulatory agencies often exempt companies from having to include PFAS in their ingredients labelling under “trade secret” protections. So most often companies omit PFAs from their packaging. In fact, this study is believed to be one of the first – if not the first -- to reveal PFAS contamination in makeup products. But until now, consumers have been left completely in the dark – with their health being placed at ever greater risk from everyday makeup use.
There is some reason to hope things could change in the near future. Recently, the U.S. Senate has introduced a bipartisan bill that would ban the use of PFAS in makeup manufacturing. Dubbed the “No PFAS In Cosmetics Act”, the bill would require the Food and Drug Administration to ban PFAS use in such products within 270 days. But passage of any bill in Congress these days, no matter how much common sense or nobility is used to protect American’s health and well-being, is far from a sure thing. So, for now, it may be best to avoid “waterproof” or “long lasting” makeup products. And if you believe your health has been harmed by exposure to PFAS, you should contact an experienced law firm right away to explore your rights.