Fluorinated compounds in cosmetic products | Research

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Swedish scientists have studied the levels of a group of notorious fluorinated compounds in cosmetics. Their results indicate the presence of fluorinated substances not taken into account by the listed ingredients, as well as high concentrations of substances of concern.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances, are linked to adverse health effects and environmental concerns. Chemicals are still produced internationally and are ubiquitous in commercial products and industrial processes, for applications ranging from textiles to fire-fighting foams. “There is significant contamination of drinking water supplies across the United States and really all of the industrialized countries that use them, so they have received a lot of attention lately,” notes Scott Masten, who manages the selection of water supplies. substances for the US National Toxicology Program and was not involved in the study. “There are so many and very little is known about the compounds found in cosmetics. “

“A big challenge in this job was to analyze both the listed and unlisted PFAS ingredients, because the concentrations varied so much,” says Lara Schultes, senior scientist at Stockholm University. Schultes and his colleagues studied 31 products, including moisturizers, foundations, pencils, shaving powders and foams from brands such as L’Oreal, The Body Shop and Gillette. By testing the products for 39 known PFASs using liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry and comparing these results to their data on extractable organic fluorine and total fluorine, the scientists were able to calculate the mass balance of fluorine. . This is a measure of the fraction of fluorine represented by known PFAS and has not been previously determined in cosmetics.

About half of the samples contained measurable amounts of at least one PFAS. In foundations and powders, the group detected up to 25 PFAS. Some products contained high concentrations of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a suspected carcinogen.

The study found a significant difference between the detected levels of known PFAS and the total fluorine content for all samples, indicating that unknown fluorinated substances are present in these cosmetic products. These compounds could result from the degradation of the active ingredients or simply be impurities.

Scientists previously assumed that exposure to PFAS through the skin was negligible compared to pathways such as food intake. However, the group used their data to estimate PFOA exposure from daily foundation application and the upper end of their calculated range far exceeds Swedish daily intake estimates from diet. .

PFAS are currently used as emulsifiers and viscosity regulators in cosmetics. However, in response to the first data from this research, several companies have made a commitment to phase out certain PFASs from their cosmetics. “I think we have to ask ourselves if these chemicals are really necessary in certain consumer products,” says Schultes.

Future work will consist of studying the dermal absorption of these chemicals in more detail in order to determine the importance of cosmetics as a source of exposure to PFAS.

Correction: This article was updated on December 7 to correct the job title of Scott Masten

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