Studies highlight concerns about personal care products

Posted at 11:34 PM, Aug 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-17 00:45:38-04

Ever wonder what's in the products you use every day?  Toothpaste, lotion, sunscreen?  You may be exposing yourself to potentially harmful ingredients thanks to the lack of government oversight.  The I-Team answers the question, is anyone policing the safety of these products?

On average, people use about 10 personal care products daily, which means we're exposed to more than 126 ingredients, every day.   Can all those different chemicals actually harm you?

Charlotte Gehrud loves buying new nail polish colors.  In her collection brands that use triphenyl phosphate, or TPHP, in some of its nail polish.  TPHP can possibly disrupt hormone systems, a concern for young girls.  Something mom Angie commented on, "being the age that she is, where she's very much developing, that's kind of scary."

A joint study by a health group out of DC and Duke University found when women used nail polish with TPHP, it ended up inside their bodies.  The chemical is also used as a common flame retardant. According to the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, more research is needed, but recommends young girls limit their exposure. 

This nonprofit has been looking into cosmetic safety since 2002. Tina Sigurdson, an EWG staff attorney, says labels don't always list every ingredient.  "There's definitely a lot that we don't know about what we're buying and putting on our bodies," Sigurdson said. 

She explained manufacturers are not required to break down terms like "flavor" or "fragrance" and, "that can hide ten, maybe even more ingredients."

And the law doesn't require the FDA to approve cosmetic products before they go on the market, but it can monitor consumer complaints, which prompted a recent FDA warning about Wen Cleansing Conditioners.  127 people reported hair loss, breakage, itching and rash associated with the product.  The FDA then discovered more than 21,000 complaints were made directly to the company, Chaz Dean.  "The makers of WEN had no legal obligation to turn over those complaints to the agency.  That's pretty crazy," Sigurdson commented.

But a new bill sponsored by California Senator Dianne Feinstein would give the FDA more oversight.  Including requiring companies to report complaints, disclose product ingredients and hand over internal safety studies. 

When it comes to nail polish, Angie feels her daughter's exposure is limited and calls it a risk that can be managed.  "Only do it once in a while do it for a special occasion.  Definitely be conscious of not biting your fingernails," Angie told us.

A scientist with EWG told me data is still limited when it comes to effects of TPHP in people but says there is emerging science on the topic. Many nail polishes do contain the chemical. Be sure to check the label if you're concerned.  EWG has a database called "Skin Deep" where it offers safety ratings for around 80,000 products, including nail polish.

Nail Polish search - Skin Deep

FDA Warning: WEN

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