You might want to read your personal care products' labels more carefully.

By Stacey Leasca
February 08, 2019
Miguel Sanz/Getty Images

The average adult uses nine personal care products each and every day. Those nine products, the Environmental Working Group reported, come with 126 unique chemical ingredients. Though the vast majority of those chemicals are safe, there may be a few lurking inside your favorite products that could be harmful to both your health and your children’s.

According to a newly released longitudinal study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal that followed more than 1,000 pairs of mothers and children, babies exposed in utero and shortly after birth to three classes of chemicals had diminished lung function at six and 12 years of age. Those three classes of chemicals include phthalates, parabens and the fluorinated compounds known as PFAS. And all of them are found in one personal care product or another.

“This study provides even more evidence that it’s time to finally regulate the chemicals in cosmetics,” Scott Faber, the Environmental Working Group’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, said in a statement. “As if increasing the risk of cancer and infertility were not enough for Congress to act, now we can add lung damage in kids to the list of harms caused by these everyday products.”

Think you’re not exposed to these chemicals? You might want to check the label on every beauty and personal care product you own. According to the Environmental Working Group, parabens are used as a preservative in a multitude of cosmetics. It has already been linked to a number of health issues, including breast cancer. The preservative was found in one-fifth of the products in the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database, Skin Deep.

PFAS chemicals, another one of the chemicals studied, has also been linked to cancer, along with thyroid disease and liver problems. That chemical, the group’s Skin Deep database shows, is found in 66 different products from 15 brands.

And phthalates, the group explained, is used as a fragrance mixture. It is a known hormone disruptor, according to the group, which can “alter the reproductive development of male infants and are associated with sperm damage in adult men.”

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As to what’s being done with this data, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), and by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), introduced legislation known as the Personal Care Safety Act, which would give the Food and Drug Administration power to review, and hopefully, one day regulate these chemicals. For perspective, the last—and only time—the government regulated the cosmetics industry was with the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. That act passed in 1938.

If you’re concerned with the potential ingredients in your products you can always check with Skin Deep, or check out the Think Dirty app. All you need to do is scan your product and the app will alert you to any potentially problematic ingredients. That way, you have all the information you need to make the purchasing decision that’s right for you.