Waterproof mascara and liquid lipsticks and foundation may contain cancer-linked 'forever chemicals': study

applying mascara
Most of the waterproof mascara tested had high fluorine levels. Tesnim Karisik/EyeEm via Getty Images
  • Researchers tested 231 makeup products for indicators of potentially toxic chemicals called PFAS.

  • PFAS exposure has been linked to an increased risk of cancer and other health problems.

  • Most waterproof mascara, liquid lipsticks, and foundation tested had indicators of the chemicals.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A study of popular makeup products found most waterproof mascara, liquid lipsticks, and foundations tested had indicators of cancer-linked "forever chemicals" - and most were not labeled as such.

Researchers tested 231 cosmetic products from stores and brands across the US and Canada. About half of them had high fluorine levels, which is how scientists spot the presence of potentially toxic chemicals called PFAS.

Thousands of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exist, but only a small portion of them have been tested for toxicity. All PFAS are human-made and slow to break down in the environment and the body.

"Because they don't break down, they can build up in water and food, they can stay in our bodies, and they can cause health effects," Thomas Bruton, an author of the study and senior scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute, told Insider. The study was published today in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Exposure to the two most well-studied PFAS, called PFOA and PFOS, has been linked to increased risk of some cancers, low birth weight, and problems with the thyroid and immune system.

Waterproof and long-lasting makeup were most likely to contain PFAS

The researchers set out to screen for PFAS in makeup to get a better understanding of how the chemicals get into our bodies, as well as our wastewater.

They found that more than three-quarters of waterproof mascara, nearly two-thirds of foundations and liquid lipsticks, and more than half of eye and lip products had high fluorine levels, suggesting the presence of PFAS.

"That makes sense to us because some of those products tend to be marketed as waterproof or long-lasting," Bruton told Insider. "These are the type of properties that it makes sense PFAS might be used for."

The team selected 29 products with high fluorine levels to be analyzed further, and they were all found to contain at least four PFAS of concern.

Most products did not list PFAS on the label

Although lipstick-wearers may eat several pounds of lipstick in their lifetimes, makeup products are relatively unregulated compared to the food and drug industries, Graham Peaslee, senior author of the study, said in a press release.

Nearly 90% of the products with high fluorine levels - including the 29 confirmed to contain PFAS - did not list PFAS on the ingredients label.

Since there's not much people can do to avoid unlabeled PFAS, the study authors are calling for the government to step up.

Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, and others introduced the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act today to ban PFAS in makeup and personal care products. Rep. Debbie Dingell plans to introduce the same bill in the House.

"The fact that about half of the products that we tested didn't have high levels of fluorine and don't seem to have PFAS indicates to us that it's possible to make cosmetics without these chemicals, so it shouldn't be too hard to stop using them," Bruton said.

Read the original article on Insider