Beauty and Kids

Hidden-from-women hazard used in plastic hurts their offsprings’ motor skills

children, beauty, kids, parenting

children, beauty, kids, parenting

Life isn’t getting easier for anyone. And for the children of women who use the most cosmetics, life might be getting even more difficult, thanks to their mothers’ makeup habits.

Data come from the prospective cohort study of mothers and offspring who participated in the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health birth cohort (CCCEH) and were published in the journal Environment International. Seven phthalate metabolites were measured in maternal spot urine obtained during the third trimester and motor function was evaluated. Girls exposed to the most everyday amounts of a family of chemicals called phthalates that are commonly used in cosmetics experience decreased fine-motor functions but not boys.

The study enrolled 209 New York City women and their children. One of the phthalates to deficits, di-2-ethylhexyl phthalates (DEHP), has been dtected in numerous lipsticks and fragrances that HealthyLivinG Foundation has tested.

“In this study, we have found new evidence that phthalates—chemicals commonly used in cosmetics and plastics—are harmful to children’s health,” says says senior author Pam Factor-Litvak, PhD, professor of epidemiology. “Girls with deficits in fine motor skills may have difficulty with their schoolwork, particularly related to problems writing and using electronic devices. They may also have problems with hand-eye coordination.”

One reason phthalates are so easily absorbed into the body is that the plastics release them into the environment. Our exposures are from diet (released from food packaging and from lipstick), air (from air fresheners and perfumes), and skin absorption (as they are used in personal care and pliable vinyl products). Phthalates cross the blood-placenta barrier and are associated with shortened gestational age, disrupted male reproductive development, and deficits in cognitive function and behavioral outcomes.

Phthalates interfere with the sex and thyroid hormones that are required for brain development, especially the development of the cerebellum, which is in part accountable for coordination and fine-motor movements. Phthalates are shown to disrupt specialized neurons associated with the development of motor skills, including fine motor skills, which are known to develop earlier in girls than in boys.

A 2018 article in Environmental Health Perspectives reports, “A national survey of >2,300 U.S. women reported that the average adult woman uses approximately 12 individual personal care products each day and that more than a quarter of all women use ≥ 15 products per day.... The Environmental and Reproductive Health (EARTH) Study, a cohort study of women attending fertility clinics (18–45 y old), reported evidence of a ... dose–response relationship between the number of products used and urinary paraben and phthalate metabolite concentrations....”

The personal-care and beauty industry operates under fewer than two pages of federal law that can barely be found tucked away in the approximately six-hundred pages of the 1938 Food, Drug, And Cosmetic Act (FDCA). One-half of the first page of those nearly two pages is devoted to exempting hair dyes from regulations as long as they are batch certified; no pre-market safety testing of products can be required. The Food and Drug Administration Division of Colors and Cosmetics has a budget of eight-million dollars and staff of approximately thirty. The US cosmetic industry has revenues north of eighty-billion dollars annually and employs nearly one million persons including stylists, manicurists, and shop workers. What could possibly go wrong?

ReferencesSharon Daniel, Arin A. Balalian, Robin M. Whyatt, Xinhua Liu, Virginia Rauh, Julie Herbstman, Pam Factor-Litvak. Perinatal phthalates exposure decreases fine-motor functions in 11-year-old girls: Results from weighted Quantile sum regression. Environment International, 2020; 136: 105424 DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.105424

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