More than half of popular cosmetics being sold in the US and Canada are likely to contain high levels of toxic chemicals called polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a new study has warned.
Researchers from Notre Dame University tested more than 200 products including concealers, foundations, eye and eyebrow products and lip products, and found evidence of PFAS in around half (52 per cent) of them.
Worryingly, previous research has linked certain PFAS to a range of health issues, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, hypertension, thyroid disease, low birth weight and immunotoxicity in children.
Professor Graham Peaslee, who led the study, said: ‘PFAS is a persistent chemical – when it gets into the bloodstream, it stays there and accumulates.
‘There’s also the additional risk of environmental contamination associated with the manufacture and disposal of these products, which could affect many more people.’
PFAS are a large, complex, and ever-expanding group of manufactured chemicals that are widely used to make various types of everyday products, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
They explained: ‘For example, they keep food from sticking to cookware, make clothes and carpets resistant to stains, and create firefighting foam that is more effective. PFAS are used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, construction, electronics, and military.’
In the study, the team tested more than 200 cosmetics for fluorine – an indicator of PFAS use in the product.
Their analysis revealed that 56 per cent of foundations and eye products, 48 per cent of lip products and 47 per cent of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine.
In particular, products advertised as ‘long-lasting’ and ‘wear-resistant’ were found to contain high levels, which is unsurprisingly, according to the team, given PFAS are often used for their water resistance and film-forming properties.
Worryingly, 29 products were tested further, and found to contain up to 13 PFAS – yet just one of these items listed PFAS as an ingredient.
Professor Peaslee said: ‘This is a red flag. Our measurements indicate widespread use of PFAS in these products – but it’s important to note that the full extent of use of fluorinated chemicals in cosmetics is hard to estimate due to lack of strict labeling requirements in both countries.’
PFAS are known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they don’t naturally degrade, meaning they can contaminate groundwater for decades.