|Opinions: Cosmetics possibly bad for health|
by Katherine Beck, The Red and Black (University of Georgia student paper)
January 30th, 2007
The morning routines of most young women are very similar: wash the face, put on deodorant and then apply make-up. Unfortunately, most young women are completely oblivious to the consequences of powdering their noses.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit agency dedicated to public health and the environment, a casual, everyday process like the one described above can expose the body to 126 chemicals.
Yet, this is a part of most people's everyday lives - applying, slathering and powdering diligently, all in an oblivious attempt to preserve beauty.
Make-up, shampoo, lotion and the countless products that fill our bathrooms all contain chemicals precarious to our health.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, another nonprofit public health organization, diligently lists dangerous ingredients and the cosmetic and hygiene products they are found in on their Web site.
For example, chemicals like phthalates, which are commonly used to soften plastics, are found in countless everyday products like hair spray, nail polish and deodorant. DEHP and DBP, the most used phthalates in cosmetics, are shown to cause liver, kidney, lung and reproductive damage.
Parabens, the most widely used synthetic and preservative in cosmetics, are linked to failure of the endocrine system, an essential part of our body's hormonal operations.
The European Union has already decided to take action against the use of these and other chemicals in cosmetic and hygiene products.
They have passed bans, which extend to all 29 countries within the union, that prohibit the use of any chemical that has been linked in studies to cause cancer, reproductive problems or DNA mutations.
The United States, however, has yet to take action. The Food and Drug Administration has no say over this issue, according to their Web site.
Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the FDA is denied the right to approve cosmetic ingredients. Therefore, most cosmetic companies do not seek FDA approval, and can legally turn a blind eye to this matter.
The FDA also has no power to recall unsafe beauty or hygiene products. Instead, cosmetic firms are in complete control over what enters our market.
This multi-million dollar industry has sole power over the research and studies concerning their products and ingredients.
On their Web site, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says that because of this, 99.9 percent of the 14,985 beauty and hygiene products on the market - including lip balm, deodorant, lotion and countless others - have not been tested or evaluated for possible health risks.
Instead, thousands of people continue with this daily self-sabotage, completely unaware and unassuming of the products they buy and use.
This is especially horrifying when looking at how young girls are starting to use make-up.
Research by Mintel International Group, a market research firm, shows that girls as young as seven years old are using make-up, and that 90 percent of girls ages 14 years and older use make-up regularly.
Females are not the only ones at high risk. The EWG online research center shows that one in a hundred men apply at least 15 products daily. In fact, anyone using cologne or perfume, deodorant or even hair mousse is at risk for chemical contact.
Ridding these chemicals from one's life is tricky. Pulling out a magnifying glass and closely inspecting the ingredients list on any package is the best place to start.
However, there a few tricks cosmetic companies use to keep you buying even after further investigation.
Beware of labels which claim the product to be "hypoallergenic," "alcohol free" or "natural." The FDA lacks control over the specific definition of these words, and therefore, they expand over a broad range of meanings.
According to the FDA, both "hypoallergenic" and "alcohol free" usually refer to those products that do not contain the most common irritants but may contain other irritants.
The term "natural" is quite loose as well. While a product listed as "natural" may contain natural ingredients, it also may contain synthetic dyes and fragrances.
Because no one really knows how safe or dangerous these products are, it is up to the consumer to make safe decisions.
Keeping mascara from running, nail polish from chipping and a fragrance lingering are just some of the effects of chemicals in cosmetic and hygiene products, but they can also ruin your good health.
Katherine Beck is a junior from Richmond, Va. majoring in magazines and speech communications.