Children Using Cosmetics that Contain Toxins

Children Using Cosmetics that Contain Toxins
Photo by Gift Habeshaw / Unsplash

It's common for children to use glitter, face paint, lip gloss and other products, as a new study by scientists at Columbia University and Earthjustice confirms. The study found that 79 percent of parents say their children 12 or younger use such products.

The problem with that is that those products may contain carcinogens and other toxic chemicals.

“There is increasing evidence of harmful ingredients often included in adult cosmetics and children's makeup and body products, and children are more biologically susceptible to the effects of toxicants,” says study co-first author Eleanor A. Medley.

Prior research has shown that these products often have toxic chemicals, like lead, asbestos, PFAS, phthalates, and formaldehyde in them. Toxic chemicals found in children’s makeup and body products, like heavy metals, are especially harmful to infants and children. These chemicals, whether intentionally added or present as contaminants, have been linked to cancer, neurodevelopmental harm, and other serious and irreversible health effects.

54% use products monthly

According to the Columbia and Earthjustice study, of the surveyed children, about 54 percent use cosmetics and body products at least monthly, 12 percent use them daily, about 20 percent use them for eight hours or more at a time, and a third of them reported unintentionally ingesting the products in the last year.

Over one-third of the surveyed children are Latino and 65 percent of those children use the products. Compared to other racial groups, Latino children reported using makeup and body products more often and more for play.

This study comes as some states, like New York and Washington, consider tightening their consumer regulations around toys, makeup, and personal care products.

Children more vulnerable

“Children are particularly vulnerable to adverse health risks associated with chemicals often found in makeup and body products,” says study senior author Julie Herbstman, PhD, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia.

“In addition to dermal exposure through the skin, behavioral patterns such as hand-to-mouth activity may increase exposure to products through unintentional ingestion," Herbstman said. "Additionally, children’s small body size, rapid growth rate, developing tissues and organs, and immature immune systems make them biologically susceptible to the effects of toxicants.”

“It is alarming that industry is being allowed to sell makeup and body products marketed to children that contain extremely toxic chemicals, said Earthjustice Attorney Lakendra Barajas. “Unfortunately, currently little is being done at the federal level to protect children from toxic chemicals in children's makeup and body products.”

Results of the study are published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.