This is no child’s play.
Many kids in the U.S. may be using potentially toxic beauty products, a new study finds.
Using makeup and body paint may seem like harmless fun for kids — but marketing to kids doesn’t make cosmetics safe, warn researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the nonprofit Earthjustice. Toxic chemicals such as heavy metals have been linked to serious adverse health effects, especially for young children.
The joint team analyzed the results of more than 200 surveys and found that 79 percent of parents said their children aged 12 or younger used cosmetics designed for play, including lip gloss, face paint and glitter.
About 54 percent of children use these products at least once a month, while 12 percent use them daily, according to the study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Additionally, 20 percent of the children surveyed wore the product for eight hours or more, and one-third of children also admitted to ingesting it.
“There is increasing evidence that adult cosmetics and CMBPs often contain harmful ingredients, and that children are biologically more susceptible to toxic substances,” co-author Eleanor Medley said in a statement said the statement.
“In this context, it is important to uncover how children use cosmetic and body products to delineate risk and improve safety,” added study co-author Kendall E. Kruchten.
The study comes as New York state tightens laws around cosmetic ingredients. Beginning June 1, the state will ban the sale of beauty products containing mercury, a known neurotoxin commonly found in skin lightening agents.
Specifically, mercury has been linked to a number of serious diseases, including certain cancers, respiratory and kidney problems, loss of certain senses and even death.
“Children are particularly vulnerable to adverse health risks associated with chemicals commonly found in cosmetics and body products,” senior study author Dr. Julie Herbsterman, a professor at Columbia University, said in a university news release.
“In addition to skin-to-skin, behavioral patterns such as hand-to-mouth movement may increase exposure to products through unintentional ingestion,” added Herbstman, who is also director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.
Children’s short stature, rapid growth, tissue and organ development and “immature immune systems” make them more vulnerable to dangerous toxins, she explained.
Until recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required cosmetic companies to list the ingredients in their products on labels. While some brands do, starting this year, all brands will soon be required to report all ingredients to the FDA. It marks the first change to cosmetic regulations of its kind in more than 80 years.
Just two years ago, the global value of the cosmetics market had ballooned to a staggering $254.08 billion and was estimated to soar, and restrictions on the beauty industry followed.
Meanwhile, it is estimated that the global market value of children’s cosmetics alone is likely to reach USD 1,795.15 million by 2026.
In 2021, experts are warning adults about the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (also known as PFAS or “permanent chemicals”) in cosmetics. These pollutants have been linked to many chronic diseases, including cancer.
In a study conducted at the University of Notre Dame, researchers analyzed the ingredients in more than 200 cosmetic products. They found that more than 56 percent of foundation and eye products, 48 percent of lip products and 47 percent of mascaras contained alarmingly high levels of fluorine, indicating the use of PFAS.
“It is appalling that industry is allowed to sell cosmetic and body products that contain highly toxic chemicals to children,” said Lakendra Barajas, an Earthjustice lawyer, adding that Columbia and Earth The results of just research can provide relevant data on the use of these substances among children in the product.
Barajas went on to hope that federal agencies would be more inclined to take steps to protect children from chemicals.
“Unfortunately, little is currently being done at the federal level to protect children from toxic chemicals in children’s cosmetics and body products,” she said.