A small study has found that adolescent girls in the United States have 16 different chemicals from four chemical classes in their blood and urine that might disrupt the normal functioning of their hormonal systems.
These endocrine disruptors -- phthalates, triclosan, parabens and musks -- are associated with cosmetics and body care products, which teen girls use in higher doses than other segments of the population, according to the Environmental Working Group, which conducted study. Further, because young women are going through rapid development, their longterm health, particularly their reproductive health, could be at risk.
The health risks of the chemicals is not definitively understood, but each has been the target of efforts by consumer, health and environmental advocates who view independent scientific findings as justification for limiting or eliminating exposure.
Because these chemicals mimic hormones, they may cause effects at very low levels, just as hormones act naturally as chemical messengers to cause changes in the body at low concentrations.
The 20 teens tested -- a small sample that can only raise more questions, rather than definitively describe exposure rates -- used an average of more than 16 personal care products daily.
Finding cosmetics and personal care products free of suspect ingredients is notoriously difficult. Labels are often misleading, ingredients are listed with confusing alternative descriptions or not at all, and many terms -- like natural or even organic -- commonly found on labels are unregulated.
In a similar, unrelated study, the Environmental Protection Agency has found that women living on either the East or West coast are much more likely to carry a body burden of mercury that threatens the health of developing fetuses. One in five women living in the Northeast is contaminated above safe levels for fetuses, according to the study, detailed by Environmental Health News. People are exposed to mercury primarily from eating tainted fish, and the coasts are more susceptible because of access to fresh fish, wealth enough to buy it, and relatively high Asian populations that eat a diet heavy on fish.
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