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The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: Ensuring Safety in Cosmetics

CEO Tinh Phung
Caption: Women around the world use cosmetics to enhance their appearance. Cosmetics have always been a staple in people's lives, helping them express their unique style and enhancing their natural beauty. However, it is essential...

someone applying makeup to an African American woman Caption: Women around the world use cosmetics to enhance their appearance.

Cosmetics have always been a staple in people's lives, helping them express their unique style and enhancing their natural beauty . However, it is essential to ensure that these products are safe for use. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) plays a crucial role in testing and regulating the chemicals used in cosmetics and personal care products.

Testing Chemicals in Cosmetics and Personal Care Products

The NIEHS, specifically the National Toxicology Program (NTP), conducts extensive research on the chemicals found in cosmetics and personal care products. Some of the chemicals they focus on include:

  • Antimicrobials: These are substances like triclosan, commonly used in body washes, and other products to kill microorganisms.

  • Engineered Nanomaterials: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, found in cosmetics and sunscreens, protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. These nanomaterials are measured in nanometers, making them incredibly tiny.

  • Parabens: Used as preservatives in various cosmetic and personal care products, parabens help extend their shelf life.

  • Phthalates: These substances are commonly found in cosmetics, such as nail polish and hair spray, as well as plastic packaging.

  • Ultraviolet Light (UV) Filters: Chemical compounds that shield the skin from damaging sun exposure are widely used in sunscreens and other cosmetics. These filters, however, have raised public health concerns due to their potential impact on hormone activity and reproductive health.

The NTP's research focuses on assessing the effects of these chemicals on human health, reproduction, and growth and development in offspring.

Insights from the NIEHS Sister Study

The NIEHS Sister Study provides valuable insights into the potential risks associated with beauty products. For example, researchers found that frequent use of permanent hair dyes and chemical hair straighteners was associated with an increased risk of developing cancer, specifically among black women. Additionally, the study revealed that women who douched had an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Salon Workers and Pregnancy

NIEHS-funded research has shed light on the potential risks faced by women working as cosmetologists and manicurists. The study found that these women had an increased risk of gestational diabetes and placenta previa, a condition that can cause severe bleeding during pregnancy and delivery.

Adolescents and Endocrine Disruptors

Recent NIEHS-supported research has shown that Latina adolescent girls who reported daily use of personal care products had higher levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in their urine. These chemicals have the potential to impact reproductive development.

Collaboration with Other Federal Agencies

The NIEHS collaborates with various federal agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and the FDA, to conduct high-throughput toxicity testing of chemical compounds found in cosmetics and other products.

Conclusion

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is dedicated to ensuring the safety of cosmetics and personal care products. Through extensive research and collaboration with other federal agencies, the NIEHS strives to protect the health and well-being of consumers. By understanding the potential risks associated with certain ingredients and products, individuals can make informed choices about the cosmetics they use.


Further Reading:

Stories from the Environmental Factor (NIEHS Newsletter):

  • Links Between Personal Care Products and Early Puberty Mapped by New Tool (January 2024)
  • Reducing Phthalates in Beauty Products May Lower Health Risks, Disparities (May 2023)
  • Triclosan Worsens Fatty Liver Disease in Mice (January 2021)

Press Releases:

  • Hair Straightening Chemicals Associated With Higher Uterine Cancer Risk (October 17, 2022)
  • Permanent Hair Dye and Straighteners May Increase Breast Cancer Risk (December 2019)

Podcasts:

  • Hair Care and Black Women's Health

Additional Resources:

  • Cosmetics Safety Q&A - Information from the FDA
  • Cosmetics and Cancer - Information from the American Cancer Society

Related Health Topics:

  • Aloe Vera
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Essential Oils
  • Nanomaterials
  • Women's Health and the Environment
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