Make-Up Holds Hidden Danger of Cancer
By Amelia Hill
Women are being exposed to deadly diseases through the everyday use of common cosmetics bought over the counter.
The growing list of synthetic ingredients manufacturers add to their products are turning the most innocent-looking shampoos and moisturizers into cocktails of toxins that could cause cancer over years of sustained use.
These synthetic ingredients are inexpensive, stable and have a long shelf-life. Manufacturers love them, but although the majority of products appear safe in the short run the results from long-term use could be deadly.
Modern cosmetics contain a host of dubious ingredients thatwould be more at home in a test tube than on our faces. Coal tar colors, phenylenediamine, benzene, even formaldehyde, are just a few of the synthetic chemicals commonly included in shampoos, skin creams and blushes - toxins which are absorbed into your skin with every use.'
There is no question that people are being damaged by their cosmetics. How can they not be? So many things are put into cosmetics now that are carcinogenic and it is allowed because cosmetics are not considered to be as serious as drugs or food.
The adverse effects of toxins is compounded over decades, confusing hormone receptors and slowly altering cell structure. Chemicals are transmitted into the bloodstream in a number of ways: powders have the least absorption, while oily solutions or those designed to increase moisture allow more of the chemical to be absorbed.
Eye makeup can be absorbed by the highly sensitive mucous membranes. Hair sprays, perfumes and dusting powders can be inhaled, irritating the lungs. Lipstick is often chewed off and swallowed.
The United Nations Environmental Program estimates that approximately 70,000 chemicals are in common use across the world with 1,000 new chemicals being introduced every year. Of all the chemicals used in cosmetics, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has reported that nearly 900 are toxic - although other groups attack that figure as being far too conservative.
Compared to the toxins found in our air, soil and waterways, cosmetics seem a trivial pursuit to many environmental health and consumer advocacy groups. But many of the same poisons that pollute our environment, from dioxins to petrochemicals, can be found in the jars and bottles that line our bathroom shelves.
It is too early to know with certainty how serious the long-term impact could be on health, but warns that hormone-disrupting chemicals may lurk in cosmetics which could lower immunity to disease and cause neurological and reproductive damage. 'Many of these same ingredients have been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals,' she said. 'At best, a visit to your neighborhood cosmetic counter could result in allergies, irritations and sensitivities.'
The Observer April 7, 2002