More and more new and expecting parents are going out of their way to ensure their children don’t consume toxin-laden foods, with many women opting for organic foods and natural ingredients during pregnancy and then extending this philosophy to their children once they move past breast milk. However, many of these same parents are far more lax when it comes to personal care products – and new research shows that this could come back to haunt them in the form of lung damage.
According to a longitudinal study in The Lancet Planetary Health, babies who are exposed in utero and shortly after being born to several common cosmetics chemicals had lower lung function at ages six and 12. The study, which is believed to be the first to look into how chemical exposure before and after birth affects children’s lung functions, identified three classes of chemicals that are found in personal care products and cosmetics as being dangerous: parabens, phthalates and PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).
The researchers came to this conclusion after looking at data taken from over 1,000 pairs of mothers and their children in the U.K., Spain, France, Norway, Greece and Lithuania.
What are the other dangers of these chemicals?
Parabens are chemical preservatives that have been linked to health problems like breast cancer in addition to reduced lung function in children. They’re pretty hard to avoid; the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database of cosmetics, which analyzes the ingredients in 70,000 popular products, found parabens in a fifth of them.
Phthalates, meanwhile, are often found in body care products and fragrances. These strong hormone disruptors have been shown to impact male reproductive development and have been linked to sperm damage in adults.
PFAS chemicals have been linked to problems like cancer, liver issues, and thyroid disease. It’s also the chemical class responsible for the dangers associated with Teflon. PFAS are chemicals that are present in some types of shampoo, shaving cream, and sunscreen. There is believed to be no safe level of exposure to these chemicals.
Another ingredient you should avoid is talc, which is commonly found in some baby powders, cosmetics and household products. Although it wasn’t identified in this particular study, it’s definitely something to look out for. Using products with talc in the genital area, such as in diaper cream or baby powder, has been linked not only to lung damage but also ovarian cancer, with 22 women recently being awarded $4.7 billion in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over ovarian cancer caused by baby powder.
The problem of dangerous chemicals in personal care products has become so pronounced in recent times because of a lack of regulation and seriously outdated laws; more than 80 years have passed since the last time Congress voted on a cosmetics law, leaving companies free to add newer chemicals that have been linked to health problems. Although legislation was recently introduced that could give the FDA the power to review questionable chemicals, oversight is sorely needed right now.
EWG Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber said: “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.”
With the average adult using nine personal care products per day, there’s a reasonable chance you’re coming into contact with some type of potentially toxic chemical ingredient. Be sure to check the ingredients list of products you use regularly; you can also consult the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to learn more about the ingredients in the products you use. Don’t just assume everything sold in stores is safe; take responsibility for your health and investigate cosmetics ingredients carefully.