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Risks From Toxic Ingredients In Cosmetics, And Personal Care Products

The Cancer Prevention Coalition and Organic Consumers Association warn of major risks to health from the great majority of cosmetics and personal care products.

As the Obama Administration works with Congress to pass comprehensive health care reform legislation this year, President Barack Obama told reporters at the July 10 Group of 8 news conference, "We have to bend the cost curve on health care, and there are some very specific ways of doing that - - game changers that incentivize quality as opposed to quantity, that emphasize prevention."

Most cosmetics and personal care products on store shelves today contain five major categories of toxic ingredients. These are: frank carcinogens (cancer causing); precursors of or "hidden" carcinogens; endocrine or hormonally disruptive; penetration enhancers; and allergens.

Our skin is highly permeable. Less than one-tenth of an inch thick, skin is a porous membrane that is highly sensitive to toxic chemicals. What we put on our skin affects our health just as much as, if not more than, what we put in our mouths.

Some toxic ingredients illegally remain unlabeled. Of particular concern are hormonal phthalates, and synthetic "aroma boosters" which strongly intensify organic fragrances.

Expressing concerns on carcinogenic products, the late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, in 1997 Senate Hearings on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Reform Bill, warned that, "The cosmetics industry has borrowed a page from the playbook of the tobacco industry by putting profits ahead of public health."

However, this is an understatement. Tobacco products are labeled with explicit warnings on cancer risks, which relate only to late adolescents and adults. In striking contrast, there are no warnings whatsoever on cosmetics and personal care products. Yet their ingredients pose unrecognized lifelong dangers to the entire U.S. population, including the fetus, following maternal use and absorption through the skin into maternal and fetal blood.

The cosmetics and personal care product industry, other than relatively small U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic companies, can no longer claim ignorance of the wide range of toxic, and even life threatening, ingredients in products manufactured and sold by multibillion-dollar, besides smaller, companies.