Are chemicals hiding in your makeup?
Study finds most personal care products untested, ranks brand names for safety

LOS ANGELES, California, June 7, 2004: Most cosmetics and other personal care products sold in the U.S. contain chemicals that have never been assessed for safety, according to a computer-assisted investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Of the few products they have been tested some have been found to contain known or probable carcinogens or reproductive toxins.

A new website, www.ewg.org, which goes live today, will help beauty consumers access their risk level. The website evaluates over 7,500 brand-name products letting users know if there are any probable health hazards associated with any of the product’s ingredients.

While evidence indicates there is little risk from short-term use of a single beauty product long-term use of a combination of products combined with product-enhancement features that increase a chemicals absorption into the skin could add up to a real concern for users.

"This news is cause for concern, but not alarm," said Jane Houlihan, EWG's vice president for research. "Studies to understand the potential health impacts from low-dose lifelong exposures to chemical mixtures like those in personal care products have yet to be done. In the meantime, consumers can use our online, interactive product guide to choose personal care products that pose fewer potential risks."

A survey of more than 2,300 people conducted by EWG and five other public health and environmental organizations found that the average adult who responded uses nine personal care products daily, exposing herself to 126 chemicals every day.

Of the 10,500 chemical ingredients used in personal care products, just 11 percent have been safety assessed — and the assessments were not conducted by government officials, but by a panel funded by manufacturers. The cosmetic industry polices the safety of its own products: the Food and Drug Administration cannot require safety testing of ingredients or products before they are put on store shelves and into our bodies.

Olivia James, a former runway fashion model, questions whether her son's health problems could be linked to her use of cosmetics. James, who modeled for 16 years, said her son was born with hypospadias, a birth defect that has been linked in laboratory studies to chemicals found in nail polish and moisturizing cream.

"Why do our chemical regulations let the cosmetics industry decide what's safe for us and our children?" asked James.

For more information, see www.safecosmetics.org.

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