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There are around 84,000 chemicals on the market, and we come into contact with many of them every single day. And if that isn’t enough to cause concern, the shocking fact is that only about 1 percent of them have been studied for safety.

Women are particularly at risk because they use more personal care products than men. Photo credit: Shutterstock
Women are particularly at risk because they generally use more personal care products than men: 25 percent of women apply 15 or more products daily, including makeup and anti-aging creams, amounting to an average of 168 chemicals. Photo credit: Shutterstock

In 2010, at a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, Lisa Jackson, then the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), put our current, hyper-toxic era into sharp perspective: “A child born in America today will grow up exposed to more chemicals than any other generation in our history.”

Just consider your morning routine: If you’re an average male, you use up to nine personal care products every single day: shampoo, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, hair conditioner, lip balm, sunscreen, body lotion and shaving products—amounting to about 85 different chemicals. Many of the ingredients in these products are harmless, but some are carcinogens, neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors.

Women are particularly at risk because they generally use more personal care products than men: 25 percent of women apply 15 or more products daily, including makeup and anti-aging creams, amounting to an average of 168 chemicals. For a pregnant woman, the risk is multiplied as she can pass on those toxins to her unborn child: 300 contaminants have been detected in the umbilical cord blood of newborns.

Many people don’t think twice about the chemicals they put on their bodies, perhaps thinking that the government regulates the personal care products that flood the marketplace. In reality, the government plays a very small role, in part because it doesn’t have the legal mandate to protect the public from harmful substances that chemical companies and manufacturers sell in their products. Federal rules designed to ensure product safety haven’t been updated in more than 75 years. New untested chemicals appear on store shelves all the time.

“Under federal law, cosmetics companies don’t have to disclose chemicals or gain approval for the 2,000 products that go on the market every year,” notes Jane Kay in Scientific American. “And removing a cosmetic from sale takes a battle in federal court.”

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