BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Cosmetics as a potential source of health and environmental hazard



Cosmetics and beauty care products are one of the most consumed products in the world. There are many types and forms of these products found in constant distribution throughout the globe. According to an Article by the European Union, cosmetic is a general term that refers to any substance or mixture intended to be placed in contact with the external part of the human body such as the epidermis, hair, nails, lips and external genital organs. They can also be applied on the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity with the aim of exclusively or mainly cleaning them, changing their appearance, protecting them , keeping them in good condition or correcting odors.  Cosmetics are generally divided into leave on and rinse off products. A leave on product is a one that needs to remain on the surface to which it is applied for an extended period of time in order to effectively achieve it’s function, examples include perfumes, body and face creams, oils and ointments, leave=n conditioners, powders, lotions, antiperspirant etc. on the other hand, the rinse off cosmetics are those products intended to be washed off after a short stay on the skin or mucous membranes examples include shampoo, soaps , toothpaste and some conditioners .

Given their functions and significance in everyday use, cosmetics are made with the general intention of beautification and correction. However, many of these products contain numerous substances and chemicals that can be toxic to both human health and environment. Sometimes, the concept of going natural doesn’t ensure safety as some products still contain heavy metals that can still can still cause harm. Common toxic ingredients used in some cosmetics include Parabens- found in lotions and soaps; Asbestos- associated with talc found in baby powders; Parfum- in perfumes; Toluene- in nail polish and hair dyes, Polyethylene glycol- in shampoos an d sunscreen; Formaldehyde  and many others . These substances can potentially cause several health complications including endocrine disruption, allergies, irritation, , birth defects, respiratory problems , reproductive problems and cancer. For example, studies have shown that 99% of all cancerous breast tumor samples contained parabens. In addition to the health effects of cosmetics, they also pose some threat to the environment because they constitute chemicals that do not undergo decomposition or metabolic transformation after getting into the environment from body surfaces through bathing and washing. Chemicals from cosmetics are found in large quantities in comparison to other chemicals, and they are constantly released into the aquatic and terrestrial environment thus leading to pollution and intoxication.

With knowledge of the large quantities of cosmetics produced, circulated and used, one would expect or even assume that enough measures and regulations are taken towards ensuring their safety. Unfortunately, this is actually far from the truth… Health advocates say that the lack of strong regulation is a major problem as there are few laws that keep cosmetic companies and manufacturers in check and these laws are hardly reviewed allowing this problem to continue. Furthermore, some countries have no laws that require manufacturers to test the safety of the cosmetic ingredients and products before they go into the market. Needless to say, the governments, in association with global, public and international health organizations have to take measures regarding this issue. Health workers may also help with tackling this issue by moving motions for the quick review of the rules and laws covering the production of cosmetics. People should be informed about the dangers that these products could cause and seek advice on personal care products… we have the right to know!

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