the study recently published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters questioned some 231 cosmetics purchased in the United States and Canada  and therefore subject to the regulations concerning chemicals in cosmetics in these countries. However, this new research builds on earlier, more limited studies that detected PFAS in cosmetics sold in Europe and Japan.
Using particle-induced gamma-ray emission spectroscopy (PIGE) to quickly screen for total fluorine concentrations, researchers first found that most mascaras, liquid lipsticks and waterproof foundations tested contained fluoride. According to the authors, this indicates the “probable presence” of PFAS in the articles tested.
In detail, more than three quarters of waterproof mascaras analyzed – but also nearly two thirds of liquid foundations and lipsticks, and more than half of eye and lip products – had high concentrations of fluoride, say the researchers.
At least four specific PFAS in some products
Products with the highest levels of fluoride were analyzed further. The verdict: they all contained at least four PFAS which researchers consider to be “of concern.“
A total of twenty-nine products were selected for further analysis, which revealed detectable levels of at least four specific PFAS in each of them. The study authors note that these included “PFAS which break down into other PFAS known to be highly toxic and harmful to the environment.“
Sometimes called “forever chemicals,“PFAS have been the subject of various studies and assessments, some highlighting how these compounds can remain in the environment or cause adverse health effects.
Not on the label
The study also revealed that only a few rare products, among those that were the subject of more in-depth analyses, mentioned the presence of these substances on their list of ingredients.
According to the study authors, this could be related to theseries of exemptions and general guidelines for polymers, silanes and siloxanes, colorants and substitute compoundswhich complicates the use of the International Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) Dictionary and Handbook.
Manufacturers rate product safety, PCPC says
According to Personal Care Products Council (PCPC), the trade association that brings together the major producers of cosmetics and personal care products in the United States, some of the fluoride levels detected in the study could be the result of trace materials naturally present in the environment or resulting from the process. Manufacturing . “Since trace amounts are not intentionally added to products, they are not required to appear on the label. The FDA acknowledges their possible presence and offers guidance on permissible levels,commented Alexandra Kowcz, Chief Scientist, Personal Care Products Council.
“All cosmetic products and their ingredients are subject to the same safety requirements under FD&C law – they must be shown to be safe for consumers before they are marketed. The labeling of these products must be truthful and not misleading,” she added.
Following the publication of the study, Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced a bill titled “No PFAS in Cosmetics Act” to force the FDA to ban the addition of PFAS to cosmetic products.
“No PFAS in Cosmetics Act” – Senate Bill
Note that several PFAS have been banned by the Law on toxic-free cosmetics which was adopted in California last year.
“Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a diverse group of chemicals with over 6,000 ingredients and very different chemistries. It is inappropriate to assume that anything containing a fluorine atom has the same safety profile. (…) PCPC, in collaboration with the Environmental Working Group, supported the prohibition of the use of certain PFAS in cosmetics. Our member companies take their responsibility for product safety and the trust that families place in these products very seriously. Science and safety are the foundation of everything we do,stressed Alexandra Kowcz.