Medical mainstream finally catches up: Cosmetics chemicals pose health risks

Medical mainstream finally catches up: Cosmetics chemicals pose health risks

Media coverage of new research shows that the topic of cosmetics safety is infiltrating mass-market consumers—but it doesn't indicate any shift in the regulatory landscape surrounding chemical usage.

On the one hand, this seems like a “no duh” moment. On the other, this could represent the true tipping point for the natural beauty category. Either way, it’s a big win for anyone focused on raising awareness about the potential dangers of cosmetics chemicals.

This weekend’s op-ed piece in the The New York Times, Contaminating Our Bodies with Everyday Products, highlighted two recent and extremely significant warnings from the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics and the Endocrine Society about chemicals that are used in everything from receipts to cosmetics. That’s right: The medical mainstream is finally catching up to consumer advocacy groups such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group, issuing warnings about unregulated chemicals that the average consumer is coming into contact with every day, multiple times a day.

The warnings tied endocrine-disrupting chemicals to reproductive issues, diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancers, including breast, testicular and uterine. Both organizations focused on the potential dangers to pregnant women and unborn babies who are “polluted” due to mothers’ exposure during pregnancy.  

U.S. cosmetics: a broken system

As this New York Times piece points out, one of the biggest problems with the cosmetics system and the chemical industry as a whole is that chemicals used in various consumer products are not required to be proven safe before entering the marketplace. Of the more than 80,000 chemicals used commercially today, very few have been screened for safety.

The piece goes on to compare the chemical industry to that of cigarettes in the 1950s: “Researchers were finding that cigarettes caused cancer, but the political system lagged in responding. Now the same thing is happening with toxic chemicals.”

The future of cosmetics safety

These medical warnings and the following media coverage show that the topic of cosmetics safety will continue to infiltrate mass-market consumers. What this coverage doesn’t indicate is any shift in the regulatory landscape surrounding chemical usage.

Assuming that the government doesn’t soon crack down on chemical usage in consumer products, consumers—now armed with more information about the potential health effects of common chemicals—will more heavily rely on the vetting process of retailers, third-party certifications/verifications such as the newly launched EWG Verified: For Your Health and consumer awareness campaigns.

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