FDA Finally Warns Consumers about Toxic PFAS Chemicals in Personal Care Products, Cosmetics

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally acknowledged that it is important to raise public awareness about toxic PFAS chemicals* (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in personal care products and cosmetics**. The FDA has now posted information publicly about PFAS, found in personal care products such as lotions, nail polish, shaving cream, foundation and mascara. PFAS chemicals are often added as ingredients in cosmetics to assist with product consistency and texture. (Some PFAS are not listed on the ingredients labels but still present in cosmetics and personal care products due to impurities or the breakdown of PFAS ingredients that form other PFAS.)

Do your products contain PFAS chemicals?

Personal care and cosmetics labels list the ingredients of the product in descending order of predominance and often include PFAS chemicals such as PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), perfluorooctyl triethoxysilane, perfluorononyl dimethicone, perfluorodecalin and perfluorohexane.

*PFAS are a diverse group of human-made chemicals that are estimated to include over 5,000 different types. They are resistant to heat, oil, grease and water, which make them long lasting in the environment. PFAS are often called “forever chemicals” because of their ability to persist in the environment. Because of their resistant properties, PFAS have been used in a wide range of products including stain-resistant fabrics, carpeting, cleaning products, paints and fire-fighting foams. They are also authorized for use by FDA in some cookware, food packaging and food processing equipment.

Numerous adverse health consequences have been linked to PFAS chemicals.  Among the adverse health conditions linked in scientific research studies to the PFAS family of chemicals are:

-Cancers (especially breast, testicular and prostate cancers) -Liver problems -Heart disease -Hormonal disruption -Low birth weight -Thyroid problems -Weight Gain/Obesity -Tooth decay in children -High cholesterol -Kidney problems -Prostate problems -Fertility/Reproduction problems -Immune system problems -Metabolism problems -Digestive problems (including ulcerative colitis and celiac disease…esp. in young females) -Altered gut microbiome

**In the studies on PFAS concentrations in cosmetics that have been published, scientists found the concentrations of PFAS in cosmetics ranged from parts per billion to 100s of parts per million. Some types of PFAS found in cosmetics cannot be easily measured because the exact combination of the chemical compound may not be available. This makes the chemical difficult to detect and quantify in studies. The FDA states it now believes that more research is needed to determine toxicological profiles for PFAS in cosmetics, the extent to which various PFAS in cosmetics can be absorbed through the skin, and the potential for human health risks from this type of exposure.

FDA’s Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP) and PFAS Use

The FDA has a voluntary cosmetic registration program (VCRP) that is a reporting system used by manufacturers, packers and distributors of cosmetic products that are in commercial distribution in the United States. Data in the VCRP show that over a nine-month period between 2019 and 2020, there were approximately 21 types of PFAS used as ingredients in cosmetics. During that same time period, 15 of the types decreased in use from the first report in 2019 to the second report in 2020 and the number of formulas containing at least one of the 21 types decreased from 506 to 235. The FDA cautions that because the registration program is voluntary, the data can’t be used to draw overall conclusions about the types and amounts of PFAS present in cosmetics. (source)

Lawmakers Plan to Introduce Legislation Strengthening FDA’s Authority over PFAS

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is lobbying U.S. representatives who plan to introduce legislation strengthening the FDA’s authority over cosmetics and banning some PFAS from being used in cosmetics.

The 1938 law that gives the FDA authority over cosmetics says that cosmetics must be safe, but the FDA does not review them before they hit the market and expose unsuspecting consumers. (The Cosmetic Ingredient Review, an industry-funded panel, examines ingredient safety, while FDA participates but does not vote on the panel’s conclusions.)

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics wants lawmakers to include two California laws from 2020 in the legislation. One of the laws banned 24 ingredients in cosmetics, 13 of which were PFAS. The other California law requires manufacturers to disclose flavor and fragrance ingredients used in cosmetics by 2022. (source)