Why This Matters: Cosmetics and your health

Have you ever counted how many cosmetics or personal care products you use in a day? Chances are it’s nearly 10. And chances are good that they include shampoo, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, hair conditioner, lip balm, sunscreen, body lotion, shaving products if you’re a man, and cosmetics if you are a woman. And what about your children? On any given day you might rub, spray, or pour some combination of sunscreen, diaper cream, shampoo, lotion, and maybe even insect repellant on their skin. read more…


NIH panel links Vitamin A in sunscreen to skin tumors

January 2011

A key independent science advisory panel has voted to confirm federal researchers’ conclusion that retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A found in two-fifths of U.S. sunscreens, speeds the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight. The conclusions of the NTP and its advisory panel mirror EWG’s analysis of raw NTP study data published early last year. read more…


EWG’s 2010 Sunscreen Guide: Finding the best sunscreens

May 2010

You know the drill: when the sun’s rays are fierce, duck and cover.

But sometimes, you’re going to be out there in it. EWG’s Sunscreen Guide to 1,400 sunscreens, sunblocks, lip balms and moisturizers tells you what you need to know to find safe and effective sunscreens. EWG’s exclusive scientific analysis helps you avoid red-flag ingredients like vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) and oxybenzone. EWG gives you straight talk about SPF.

Tired of the hype? So are we. The FDA should wrap up sunscreen regulations it started drafting in 1978. Americans have waited long enough. read more…


EWG asks FDA, NTP to wind up study of Vitamin A in sunscreen

May 2010

Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) to speed their analysis of a seminal investigation of possible toxic and carcinogenic risks of retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A added to many sunscreen products. read more…


Not So Sexy: Hidden chemicals in perfume and cologne

May 2010

A rose may be a rose. But that rose-like fragrance in your perfume may be something else entirely, concocted from any number of the fragrance industry’s 3,100 stock chemical ingredients, the blend of which is almost always kept hidden from the consumer.

Makers of popular perfumes, colognes and body sprays market their scents with terms like “floral,” “exotic,” or “musky,” but they don’t disclose that many scents are actually a complex cocktail of natural essences and synthetic chemicals – often petrochemicals. Laboratory tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and analyzed by Environmental Working Group revealed 38 secret chemicals in 17 name brand fragrance products, topped by American Eagle Seventy Seven with 24, Chanel Coco with 18, and Britney Spears Curious and Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio with 17. read more…


Physicians, makers and advocates press for safer sunscreens

April 2010

With school out soon and the summer sun season around the corner, a broad coalition of scientists, medical professionals, companies and public health groups has called on the federal Food and Drug Administration to adopt regulations that assure safer, more effective sunscreens. read more…


Pollution in Minority Newborns

November 2009

A two-year study involving five independent research laboratories in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands has found up to 232 toxic chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies from racial and ethnic minority groups. The findings constitute hard evidence that each child was exposed to a host of dangerous substances while still in its mother’s womb.

The laboratory analyses represent the first reported detections in American newborns for 21 contaminants. These include galaxolide and tonalide, polycyclic musks that are synthetic fragrances in cosmetics, laundry detergent and other scented products and that have been detected in numerous biomonitoring studies of pollution in people and in the aquatic environment. read more…


Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Report: Toxic chemicals found in kid’s bath products

March 2009

Despite marketing claims like “gentle” and “pure,” dozens of top-selling children’s bath products are contaminated with the cancer-causing chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, according to product test results released today by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The chemicals were not disclosed on product labels because contaminants are exempt from labeling laws. read more…


Teen Girls’ Body Burden of Hormone-Altering Cosmetics Chemicals

September 2008

Laboratory tests reveal adolescent girls across America are contaminated with chemicals commonly used in cosmetics and body care products. Environmental Working Group (EWG) detected 16 chemicals from 4 chemical families – phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and musks – in blood and urine samples from 20 teen girls aged 14-19. Studies link these chemicals to potential health effects including cancer and hormone disruption. read more…


Pesticide in soap, toothpaste and breast milk – Is it kid-safe?

July 2008

It’s a toxic pesticide that may be in your child’s toothpaste and toys, in your bed, kitchen counters and clothing. It’s supposed to kill germs, but is really no better than soap and water, and could harm your baby’s health.

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent used in many everyday products including liquid hand soap, dishwashing detergent, mattresses, shower curtains, bathtubs, and cutting boards. Federal agencies continue to allow its use despite the fact it may be toxic to the developing fetus and child, and pollutes mothers’ breast milk. read more…


Comments for public meeting on “International Cooperation on Cosmetics Regulations (ICCR) Preparations”

June 2008

FDA officials regularly exclude public health, consumer, and environmental organizations from the International Cooperation on Cosmetics Regulations forum, while allowing the regulated industry to participate. Such a process is inherently biased, conflicted, and unacceptable. read more…


Testimony to the House of Representatives: Statement of Jane Houlihan on Cosmetics Safety

May 2008

Cosmetics and personal care products may be the main routes of exposure for Americans to many harmful chemicals. But the U.S. cosmetics industry is almost completely unregulated by the federal government, Environmental Working Group (EWG) told a House subcommittee.

“Cosmetics are essentially unregulated under federal law,” EWG Vice-President for Research Jane Houlihan testified before the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “The Federal Food Drug and Cosmetics Act provides the Food and Drug Administration with virtually no power to perform even the most rudimentary functions needed to ensure the safety of an estimated $35 billion of personal care products purchased by consumers annually.”read more…


CDC: Americans carry ‘body burden’ of toxic sunscreen chemical

March 2008

The bodies of nearly all Americans are contaminated with a sunscreen chemical that has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control. A companion study from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine found that the same chemical is linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy.

The chemical, oxybenzone, is widely used in sunscreens. Environmental Working Group’s analysis of ingredient labels found that nearly 600 sunscreens sold in the U.S. contain oxybenzone, including products by Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone, and Banana Boat. Although oxybenzone is most common in sunscreen, companies also use the toxic chemical in at least 567 other personal care products, including lip balm, lipstick, moisturizers and fragrance for women. read more…


Safety Guide to Children’s Personal Care Products

November 2007

Every day children are exposed to an average of 27 personal care product ingredients that have not been found safe for kids, according to a national survey conducted in summer 2007 by Environmental Working Group. Overall, 77% of the ingredients in 1,700 children’s products reviewed have not been assessed for safety. Check our list for safer product picks. read more…


Comments to the National Research Council Committee on the Health Risks of Phthalates: Protecting public health from phthalates will require consideration of cumulative risks

December 2007

Over the past seven years a series of scientific studies has demonstrated that the U.S. population faces chronic exposures to complex mixtures of phthalates. Over that same period scientists have published a number of epidemiology studies linking the chemicals to birth defects in baby boys and reproductive problems in men. This evidence joins many dozens of laboratory studies proving phthalates to be potent reproductive toxicants that target the male reproductive system, posing the greatest risks during development.

We believe that a cumulative human health risk assessment for phthalates is needed to protect public health, is supported by the science, and is feasible using standard risk assessment techniques. read more…


Comments from EWG on the U.S. FDA’s proposed amendment of Final Monograph for sunscreens

November 2007

EWG’s research reveals serious deficiencies in the safety and efficacy of sunscreen sold in the U.S., deficiencies that have continued as a result of FDA’s delay in finalizing the standards contained in the monograph (EWG 2007a).

Therefore, while we are pleased that FDA has issued amendments to the sunscreen monograph, FDA must strengthen and finalize the monograph, then strictly enforce its provisions so that consumers will be protected from ineffective and unsafe sunscreens currently on the market. read more…


Cosmetics with Banned and Unsafe Ingredients

September 2007

In a letter to Andrew C. von Eschenbach, US FDA Commissioner, EWG’s Executive Director Richard Wiles writes, “FDA regulators will attend a forum in Brussels this week in which cosmetic industry representatives and international regulators will discuss “ways to remove regulatory obstacles among the regions” and other issues related to cosmetic marketing and safety. Environmental Working Group is writing to express deep concern that FDA officials are excluding public health, consumer, and environmental organizations from this meeting while allowing the regulated industry to participate.”read the letter…


Impurities of Concern in Personal Care Products

February 2007

An EWG analysis of government and industry sources shows that at least 146 cosmetic ingredients may contain harmful impurities linked to cancer and other serious health impacts, including 3 of the top 20 most commonly used cosmetic ingredients. Our analysis of ingredients in 7,500 personal care products shows that because some of these ingredients are used so widely, the vast majority of products on the market have the potential to be contaminated with impurities. None of these impurities is regulated by the federal government. read more…


EWG comments to FDA on nano-Scale ingredients in cosmetics

October 2006

Our research reveals the widespread use of nano-scale ingredients in everyday personal care products. We identified nearly 9,800 products containing nano-scale ingredients or ingredients that may contain a nano-scale fraction.1 These include 256 products containing one or more of 57 different types of nano-scale or micronized ingredients, and 9,509 additional products containing ingredients that are commercially available in nano sizes, but nearly all of which have no label information on particle size whatsoever. Our results represent the most comprehensive list of such products compiled to date. read more…


Across Generations – Industrial chemicals in mothers and daughters: The pollution we share and inherit

May 2006

The unique bond between a mother and daughter starts in the womb and evolves over a lifetime, as each adapts and grows with the other in an elaborate interplay of nature and nurture. Shared bonds of common genetics and a common environment — their home, the air they breathe, and the food they eat — inextricably link daughters and mothers. Now, new laboratory tests of mothers and their daughters show that these same two facets of nature and nurture — genetics and environment — combine to create another, unwanted aspect of the ties that bind: a common body burden of industrial chemicals.

Phthalates were found in all eight mothers and daughters tested. These chemicals are common plastic softeners and solvents in a wide variety of consumer products, including cosmetics, paint, food packaging, and plastics including children’s toys. read more…


FDA fails to protect consumers

October 2005

On September 29, 2005, the Food and Drug Administration issued a final written response to a cosmetic safety petition filed by the Environmental Working Group. Notably, FDA affirmed its inability to enforce a requirement that a warning label be posted on products that have not been substantiated for safety. read more…


Safety in the hands of the cosmetics industry

October 2005

EWG’s letter to CTFA staff scientist and frequent spokesman Gerald McEwen, who is the primary advisor of the industry-funded panel on which the FDA relies for decisions relating to personal care product safety. see letter…


Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), and skin cancer

October 2005

On May 21, 1992 FDA issued a consumer warning that commercial “skin peel” products, advertised to remove wrinkles, blemishes, blotches and acne scars, could destroy the upper layers of the skin, causing severe burns, swelling, and pain. FDA describes the following progression: “The skin initially reddens, as with a sunburn, then darkens and finally peels away revealing what manufacturers claim will be “new skin.” Treatments may be painful and leave permanent scars” (FDA 1992). read more…


EWG petition to FDA

In June 2004, EWG petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to improve the safety of cosmetic products.

read more…


Exposures Add Up: Survey results

June 2004

A personal care product use survey of more than 2,300 people, conducted by EWG and a coalition of public interest and environmental health organizations, shows that the average adult uses 9 personal care products each day, with 126 unique chemical ingredients. More than a quarter of all women and one of every 100 men use at least 15 products daily. see survey results…


Coal tar hair dyes, bladder cancer, and non-hodgkin’s lymphoma

June 2004

Many dye products contain ingredients called “coal tar dyes” that are specifically exempt from federal authority over adulterated products that can harm health. These include dyes made by Clairol, Revlon, L’Oreal, and others. Coal tar hair dyes are one of the few products for which FDA has issued consumer advice on the benefits of reducing use, in this case as a way to potentially “reduce the risk of cancer.” Coal tars and coal tar pitches are known human carcinogens. read more…


Not Too Pretty: Toxic chemicals linked to birth defects are being found at alarming levels in women of childbearing age

July 2002

Christian Dior’s Poison, Arrid Extra Extra Dry deodorant and Aqua Net Hair Spray are among many of the beauty and personal care products that contain one or more of the dangerous chemicals known as phthalates, according to Not Too Pretty, a report released by the Environmental Working Group, Coming Clean and Health Care without Harm. read more…


Does a common chemical in nail polish pose risks to human health?

November 2000

In September 2000, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that every single one of the 289 persons tested for the plasticizer dibutyl phthalate (DBP) had the compound in their bodies. The most critical population, women of childbearing age whose fetuses are exposed in the womb, appear to receive the highest exposures.

Government researchers speculate that the elevated levels of DBP among women of childbearing age come from cosmetics and beauty products, but no one has done the studies to test this hypothesis. As a first step in discovering some major sources, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shopped at a local Rite-Aid, surfed the on-line store Drugstore.com, and searched the U.S. patent office records for products that contain DBP in the patent application. We found DBP in 37 popular nail polishes, top coats, and hardeners, including products by L’Oréal, Maybelline, Oil of Olay, and CoverGirl. read more…