A new chemical analysis has revealed an ugly truth about beauty products: Many may contain highly persistent, potentially harmful “forever chemicals” called PFAS.
PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, include thousands of chemicals that are so sturdy they can linger in the body for years and the environment for centuries. The health effects of only a few PFAS are well known, but those compounds have been linked to high cholesterol, thyroid diseases and other problems.
“There is no known good PFAS,” says chemist and physicist Graham Peaslee of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. In the first large screening of cosmetics for PFAS in the United States and Canada, Peaslee and colleagues found thatAmong over 200 tested beauty products, about half contained high levels of fluorine — a marker for potentially harmful PFAS compounds. Waterproof mascaras, liquid lipsticks and foundations were especially likely to contain lots of fluorine. The potential health risks of PFAS in makeup are not yet clear, Peaslee says.
Twenty-nine products further tested for specific PFAS all contained at least four of these chemicals, but only one product listed PFAS among its ingredients. In addition to posing their own potential health risks, these compounds can break down in the body into other PFAS,
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