BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Women and teens who use certain shampoos, lotions, soaps, sunscreens and other personal care products risk exposure to chemicals that can interfere with their body’s endocrine system. Scientists say there is growing evidence linking these chemicals to obesity, cancer cell growth and brain disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and dementia.
A new study at UC Berkeley revealed that when teens stop using these products, even briefly, levels of these hormone-disrupting chemicals drop significantly.
The findings were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in an article titled, “Reducing Phthalate, Paraben and Phenol Exposure from Personal Care Products in Adolescent Girls: Findings from the HERMOSA Intervention Study.”
Scientists took urine samples from 100 teenage participants before and after they used products with lower levels of pthalates, parabens, triclosan and oxybenzone for 3 days. Even after a brief lapse in exposure to these endocrine-disrupting chemicals, there were substantial differences.
Cosmetic preservatives methyl and propyl parabens droped 44 and 45 percent respectively. Triclosan, found in soaps and toothpastes and benzophenone-3 used in sunscreens dropped 33 percent. Levels of metabolites of diethyl phthalate commonly used in fragrances fell 27 percent.
The study’s lead author Kim Harley, associate director of the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health says women are “disproportionately exposed to these chemicals” because they are the primary consumers of cosmetic products.
“Teen girls may be at particular risk since it’s a time of rapid reproductive development and research has suggested that they use more personal care products per day than the average adult woman,” she said in a press release.
Researchers hope the findings will help influence young women’s purchases when it comes to cosmetics and personal care products. The study is the first to show consumers that by simply reading product labels and using web-based databases, they can reduce their exposure to harmful ingredients.
“We know enough to be concerned about teen girls’ exposure to these chemicals. Sometimes it’s worth taking a precautionary approach, especially if there are easy changes people can make in the products they buy,” said Harley.
The study was a collaboration with Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, youth researches from CHAMACOS Youth Council, and UC Berkeley. The California Breast Cancer Research Program of the University of California supported the study.
CBSSF.com writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.