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Possibly Dangerous Chemicals Detected in Cosmetic Products Sold in Canada: Study

A hand using a skin oil dropper in front of a peach background

While unrealistic beauty standards are most definitely impacting our wallets, could these standards also be taking a toll on our physical health? A new study from a research team at University of Montreal (UdeM) and Carleton University has found high levels of potentially dangerous chemicals in cosmetic and personal care products sold in Canada, according to CTV News.

The study found that several cosmetic and personal care products that are available in Canada contain high levels of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances – better known as PFAS.

What are PFAS?

PFAS are a form of chemicals that have properties that make products water resistant, as well as resistant to oil or temperature changes. They also reduce friction and are found in a lot of everyday items like stain-resistant fabrics. In cosmetic and personal care products, PFAS make items foamy and water-repellant.

There have been many human health problems linked to PFAS, including “a possible risk of decreased immune response; high cholesterol levels in children and adults; growth problems in fetuses and toddlers; and kidney cancer in adults.”

Related: Dry shampoo products might be harmful to your health: report.

“In the properties of PFAS that are sought, there are often water repellent or water resistant aspects,” UdeM chemistry professor Sébastien Sauvé says. “And clearly, that’s a problem in some of the products where you have very, very high concentrations.”

Prior to the study, it wasn’t known whether or not PFAS were found in personal care products like body washes, shampoos, creams and more. But – according to Sauvé – there are traces of them in most cosmetic and personal care products.

“We see traces in just about everything we measure,” he continues. “But there were some products that contained a lot of it. That’s what really surprised us.”

About the study

As CTV News outlines, Carleton University’s Amy Rand and her colleagues purchased around 40 name-brand cosmetic products sold in Canada and online, all of which contained organofluorine compounds.


After analyzing the products for older forms of PFAS, Rand and co. discovered that each and every product had measurable levels, even though the compounds weren’t always listed in the ingredients.

Two foundations had particularly high levels of PFAS – both of which boasted terms similar to “hydrofuge.” One of the foundations had compounds that were found in thousands of parts per million, which far exceeds the Canadian PFAS regulation.

People that use such a product will “have a very high exposure to PFAS,” Sauvé explains. “It’s an exposure that is very significant. And we can assume that some people will use these products routinely. And unlike other products, it’s the foundation that will cover most of the face. It’s a bad combination.”

Since most PFAS stop products from degrading over time, they can be found in the environment for decades. And, while most PFAS have been banned in many countries (Canada included), there are still a lot of exceptions, and many of the products used to replace PFAS also have concerning health impacts.

“The alternatives have chemical structures that are very similar,” Sauvé adds. “The toxicology and impacts are not all documented, but we can assume that since the molecule is very comparable, that the toxicity and health effects will also be comparable, even if we don’t have all the information.”

See also: Chemicals in hair-straightening products linked to an increase risk of uterine cancer: study.

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