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Detailed findings

Teen Girls' Body Burden of Hormone-Altering Cosmetics Chemicals: Detailed findings

September 24, 2008
Skin Deep
In Rizza (Manteca, CA): 15 hormone-altering cosmetics chemicals

An Environmental Working Group (EWG) study revealed the presence of 16 chemicals from 4 chemical families in the bodies of 20 American girls aged 14 to 19. Chemicals from these families, phthalates, triclosan, musks, and parabens, are all commonly used in cosmetics and body care products, and are capable of disrupting the hormone system according to laboratory tests (e.g., Gray 1986; Schreurs 2004; Gomez 2005; Veldhoen 2006). This work represents the first focused look at teen exposures to chemicals of concern in cosmetics, and in particular provides the first biomonitoring data available on levels of musks and parabens in teens. Teen use of body care products is suspected to be far higher than adult use. The young women participating in our study, recruited from locations across the U.S. and representing diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, used an average of nearly 17 personal care products each day, and were exposed to an estimated 174 unique cosmetic ingredients. In contrast, EWG's survey results have indicated that the average adult woman uses just 12 products with 168 unique chemicals each day (EWG 2004).

In Erin (Ross, CA): 12 hormone-altering cosmetics chemicals. "I am living proof that one's health reflects one's lifestyle choices. Making healthier and safer choices, living a green life from day one, has significantly reduced the burden on my body."

Emerging research suggests that teens may be particularly sensitive to exposures to hormone-disrupting chemicals, given the complex hormonal signals that guide the rapid growth and development of the reproductive system, the brain, and the bone, blood, and immune systems during adolescence (Golub 2000). Chemicals within each of the 4 chemical families tested have also been linked to cancer in laboratory studies (e.g., CERHR 2000; Apostolidis 2002; Darbre 2002, 2003; ACGIH 2004; EWG 2008), and a variety of other toxicities as well (e.g., CERHR 2000; ACGIH 2004; Luckenbach 2005; EWG 2008). Chronic, low-level exposures to a mixture of these and hundreds of other untested, potentially harmful industrial chemicals may contribute to falling levels of fertility, noted especially for American women under 25 (Barrett 2006), as well as increasing rates of breast and prostate cancer (SEER 2006), diabetes and obesity (AHA 2007), and many other chronic diseases. Teen study participants' bodies contained a broad array of chemicals commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products:

  • We tested blood and urine samples for a total of 25 chemicals, and detected 16 of them (64%) in our teen participants. Each young woman had between 10 and 15 chemicals in her body. 9 of these chemicals were found in every single teen tested.
  • These first-ever exposure data for parabens in teens indicate that young women are widely exposed to this common class of cosmetic preservatives. All 20 participants were contaminated with 2 parabens, methylparaben and propylparaben; 2 young women were contaminated with all 6 parabens examined.
  • Contamination of our group study participants with the antibacterial agent triclosan was more widespread than would be suggested by CDC data. All 20 of our teen participants had measurable levels of triclosan in their bodies, while just 78% of the 263 CDC-tested teen girls aged 14-19 were similarly contaminated (CDC 2005).
  • The levels of exposure varied dramatically from participant to participant. Young women highly exposed to triclosan, methylparaben, or propylparaben had levels of these chemicals over a thousand times the levels of young women with low exposures to these chemicals.
In Emma (Boston area): 14 hormone-altering cosmetics chemicals

Comparisons between participants' body levels of these cosmetic chemicals and the body care products they use, on a daily basis and in total, revealed no significant links between measured exposures and the presence of individual cosmetic ingredients in their products. In addition, higher levels of musks and phthalates, and in particular the metabolite of diethyl phthalate, a common component of fragrance, were not associated with use of a greater number of personal care products containing fragrance. This lack of correlation between reported use of cosmetics chemicals and measured exposures in the body is not surprising, given widespread use of these chemicals in a variety of non-cosmetic everyday products, as well as data gaps concerning both the amounts of chemicals within each body care product, and the levels of exposure that may be expected with typical use of different products.

Test results from 20 teen girls find 16 chemicals from 4 chemical families commonly used in cosmetics and body care products (results for individual chemicals below)


Phthalates - tested for 7, found 7 Ingredients in nail polish and other cosmetics, especially those containing “fragrance,” as well as plastic containers. Some linked to birth defects in the male reproductive system of lab animals. Detected in: 20 of 20 teen girls tested
Typical level: 300 ppm creatinine in urine
Range: 102 – 1050 ppm creatinine
U.S. level for typical teen girl (CDC): 308 ppm creatinine

Triclosan - tested for 1, found 1 Preservative in products like liquid hand soap and toothpaste. Forms cancer-causing chemicals in surface waters and water treatment plants; raises concerns about potential impacts to thyroid gland and possible development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Detected in: 20 of 20 teen girls tested
Typical level: 8.58 ppm creatinine in urine
Range: 0.430 – 350 ppm creatinine
U.S. level for typical teen girl (CDC): 10.2 ppm creatinine

Nitro- and polycyclic musks - tested for 11, found 2 Artificial fragrances in soap, shampoo, deodorant, and cosmetics. Linked to hormone disruption and cancer in lab animals; some build up in the food chain and in people.
Detected in: 12 of 17 teen girls tested
Typical level: 0.394 ppb in serum
Range: not detected – 2.81 ppb

Parabens - tested for 6, found 6 Preservatives in cosmetics. Linked to hormone disruption and cancer in laboratory studies.
Detected in: 20 of 20 teen girls tested
Typical level: 157 ppm creatinine in urine
Range: 8.39 – 3821 ppm creatinine

 

Test results from 20 teen girls find 16 chemicals from 4 chemical families commonly used in cosmetics and body care products


Chemical class and subclass levels of chemicals in blood or urine from 20 teen girls number of urine or blood samples with detections
  average minimum maximum  
Phthalates (ppm creatinine in urine, measured as metabolites)
Monomethyl phthalate (DMP metabolite) 4.17 Not detected 42.1 13 of 20
Monoethyl phthalate (DEP metabolite) 74.6 15.0 615 20 of 20
Monobutyl phthalate (DBP metabolite) 48.4 14.4 109 20 of 20
Monobenzyl phthalate (BBzP metabolite) 15.4 5.19 353 20 of 20
Mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP metabolite) 5.9 1.45 46.9 20 of 20
Mono-(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate (DEHP metabolite) 39.9 5.64 389 20 of 20
Mono-(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate (DEHP metabolite) 31.9 5.98 306 20 of 20
Triclosan (ppm creatinine in urine)
Triclosan 8.58 0.430 350 20 of 20
Nitro- and polycyclic musks (ppb serum)
Cashmeran Not detected Not detected Not detected 0 of 17
Celestolide Not detected Not detected Not detected 0 of 17
Galaxolide 0.111 Not detected 2.81 10 of 17
Phantolide Not detected Not detected Not detected 0 of 17
Tonalide Not detected Not detected Not detected 0 of 17
Traseolide Not detected Not detected Not detected 0 of 17
Musk ambrette Not detected Not detected Not detected 0 of 17
Musk ketone 0.0414 Not detected 0.105 5 of 17
Musk moskene Not detected Not detected Not detected 0 of 17
Musk tibetene Not detected Not detected Not detected 0 of 17
Musk xylene Not detected Not detected Not detected 0 of 17
Parabens (ppm creatinine in urine)
Methylparaben 115 6.47 2918 20 of 20
Ethylparaben 2.47 Not detected 138 17 of 20
Propylparaben 19.6 0.786 898 20 of 20
Isopropylparaben 0.525 Not detected 20.7 8 of 20
Butylparaben 1.07 Not detected 57.9 17 of 20
Benzylparaben 0.0558 Not detected 0.608 4 of 20