New Research Study Finds Half of Cosmetics Sold in the United States Contain PFAS Chemicals

The use of harmful chemicals in cosmetic products has long been an issue of concern and debate. Researchers from the University of Notre Dame recently conducted a study designed to evaluate the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in cosmetics, and the potential risks they pose to human health and the environment. The results of this research demonstrate that a substantial proportion of cosmetic products in the United States and Canada contain these substances.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

Characterized by the presence of strong carbon-fluorine bonds, PFAS are synthetic chemical compounds that are highly resistant to degradation and, as a result, tend to persist in the environment. They include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), Gen X, and more. PFAS chemicals are found frequently in many household products, as well as in food and drinking water. Because of their extensive use and their environmental persistence, human exposure is common.

PFAS can present a diverse range of risks to human health. Among these are hypertension, kidney cancer, low birth weight and immunotoxicity (in children), testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and a variety of others. Research continues to be conducted to more fully understand the broad spectrum of health effects and other risks posed by these substances.

The Research

The study, published recently in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, discusses research conducted to assess the presence of PFAS chemicals in cosmetics. Researchers analyzed a group of 231 cosmetic products from the U.S. and Canada. Products evaluated spanned eight categories: concealers, eye products, eyebrow products, face products, foundations, lip products, mascaras, and miscellaneous products. Utilizing particle-induced gamma-ray emission (PIGE) spectroscopy, fluorine levels in the products (a predictive indicator of PFAS use) were examined. Results of the analysis revealed substantial concentrations of fluorine in several of the product categories:

  • 56% of eye products and foundations
  • 48% of lip products
  • 47% of mascaras

Graham Peaslee, principal investigator of the study, has acknowledged the significance of the problem, stating "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."

More detailed information on the research and its findings may be found by reviewing the published study itself.

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