Big drop in chemical exposure in teen girls who switched cosmetics

By on March 13, 2016


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SAN FRANCISCO—A research team has found that a short break from certain kinds of makeup, shampoos and lotions can lead to a significant drop in levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals in the body.

The finding, by researchers at University of California, Berkeley, and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, was based on a study of 100 Latina teenagers.

The teenagers were provided with personal care products labeled free of chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, triclosan and oxybenzone, which are widely used in cosmetics, fragrance, hair products, soaps and sunscreens, and have been shown in animal studies to interfere with the body’s endocrine system.

The results were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Kim Harley, lead author of the study and associate director of the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health, believed that “because women are the primary consumers of many personal care products, they may be disproportionately exposed to these chemicals.”

“Teen girls may be at particular risk since it’s a time of rapid reproductive development, and research has suggested that they use more personal care products per day than the average adult woman.”

With lower chemical products, urine samples before and after a three-day trial showed significant drops in levels of these chemicals in the participants’ body.

Metabolites of diethyl phthalate decreased 27 percent by the end of the trial period. Methyl and propyl parabens dropped 44 and 45 percent respectively. Both triclosan and benzophenone-3 (BP-3) fell 36 percent.

Diethyl phthalate are commonly used in fragrances; methyl and propyl parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics, triclosan is found in antibacterial soaps and some brands of toothpaste, and BP-3 in some sunscreens under the name oxybenzone.

The CHAMACOS Youth Council included 12 high school students to help design and carry out the study.

Kimberly Parra, study co-director, said it was important to involve local youth in the design and implementation of the study.

“After learning of the results, the youth took it upon themselves to educate friends and community members, and presented their cause to (California state) legislatures in Sacramento,” she said.

The researchers noted that cosmetics and personal care products are not well regulated in the United States, and that getting data about health effects from exposure is difficult.