The Global Fool

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Skin Lightening Cosmetics and Mercury Toxicity
Nov10

Skin Lightening Cosmetics and Mercury Toxicity

By Roberta Attanasio Skin lightening cosmetics are popular in many regions of the world — they’re used to lighten darker skin because of their ability to inhibit production of melanin, the substance that gives the skin its color. The active ingredients in some of these cosmetics often include toxic chemicals, as for example hydroquinone, fluorinated corticosteroid and inorganic mercury.   The World Health Organization (WHO) provides interesting facts about the global use of skin lightening cosmetics. In India, 61% of the dermatological market consists of skin lightening products. In Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Togo, 25%, 77%, 27%, 35% and 59% of women, respectively, are reported to use skin lightening products on a regular basis. In 2004, nearly 40% of women surveyed in China (Province of Taiwan and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region), Malaysia, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea reported using skin lighteners. Exposure to inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening cosmetics may result in serious and life threatening adverse effects. According to a British Medical Journal editorial, these cosmetics are used on a large body surface area for long periods of time and, in many instances, by people that live under hot and humid tropical conditions, which promote absorption through the skin. Therefore, inorganic mercury accumulates in a variety of organs and tissues. The WHO states: “The main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage. Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections. Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.” In a Consumer Update (Mercury poisoning linked to skin products) by the U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA), toxicologist Mike Bolger, Ph.D. says “People—particularly children—can get mercury in their bodies from breathing in mercury vapors if a member of the household uses a skin cream containing mercury. Infants and small children can ingest mercury if they touch their parents who have used these products, get cream on their hands and then put their hands and fingers into their mouth, which they are prone to do.” A report published in 2010 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) entitled “Mercury Exposure Among Household Users and Nonusers of Skin-Lightening Creams Produced in Mexico — California and Virginia, 2010” linked skin-lightening creams manufactured in Mexico to cases of mercury contamination affecting five households in California and Virginia. In total, fifteen out of twenty-two household members showed evidence of mercury poisoning, including six with no history of using the creams. Exposure likely occurred because of absorption of mercury through the skin and inhalation of mercury vapors generated by these creams....

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Nail Polish, Painter Syndrome and Hazardous Waste
Jun09

Nail Polish, Painter Syndrome and Hazardous Waste

By The Editors In a previous post, we talked about the toxic substances that may be present in lipstick.  Now, let’s take a look at nail polish. Nail polish may contain toxic chemicals potentially able to cause poisoning and Painter Syndrome. According to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the poisonous ingredients that may be found in nail polish are toluene, butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, and dibutyl phthalate (this list may not be all-inclusive). MedlinePlus states that: “Swallowing or breathing in (inhaling) nail polish may lead to nail polish poisoning. Some people intentionally sniff nail polish to become intoxicated (drunk) by the fumes. Over time these people, as well as those working in poorly ventilated nail salons, can develop a condition known as Painter Syndrome. This is a permanent condition that causes walking problems, speech problems, and memory loss. Painter Syndrome may also be called organic solvent syndrome, psychoorganic syndrome, and chronic solvent encephalopathy (CSE). CSE can also cause nonspecific symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, mood disturbances, sleep disorders, and possible behavioral changes.” In 2012, the Pollution Prevention Branch of the Department of Toxic Substances Control for the California Environmental Protection Agency released the results of a study in which several products (mostly nail color or lacquer) were tested for the presence of the toxic trio chemicals – toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde.  The results of the study indicated that some nail polishes and other products used at salons, even those labeled toxin-free or 3-free, may contain high levels of toxic chemicals. The products (mostly nail color or lacquer) were tested for the toxic trio chemicals – toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde. A few years ago, most mainstream nail polish brands changed up their formulas and labeled their nail polish as “3-Free”.  Some brands now label their polish as “5-free”. Five-free nail polish should be free of toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and camphor.  Notice that even the 5-free formula does not exclude butyl acetate and ethyl acetate, two of the toxic chemicals listed by MedlinePlus as poisonous and able to cause Painter Syndrome. There is something else to think about: nail polish tossed into the trash ends up in landfills and, from there, its content of toxic chemicals can reach both soil and groundwater. Be aware that nail polish is included in many household hazardous products lists and should be taken to household hazardous waste facilities for...

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Lipstick and Heavy Metals
Jun03

Lipstick and Heavy Metals

By The Editors Cosmetics are all around us.  They have been used for thousands of years.  Are they safe? Without discussing the general/global issue of cosmetics safety, we want to bring up something about one of the most used cosmetics worldwide:  lipsticks. Although in the last century lipstick use was most prevalent in the Western world, its use is now a global phenomenon.  And now, it seems lipsticks contain a potentially unhealthy dose of toxic heavy metals. What are heavy metals?  They are high atomic weight elements that exhibit, at room temperature, the properties of a metallic substance. Minute amounts of some heavy metals, including cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, strontium, and zinc, are required by living organisms.  However, excessive levels can be detrimental.  In contrast, other heavy metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium, have no known vital or beneficial effect on organisms, and can cause serious negative health effects, including carcinogenic or toxic effects that involve, among others, the central nervous system, kidneys, liver, skin, bones and teeth. A recent study published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives (Liu S, et al. Concentrations and potential health risks of metals in lip products, 121:705–710, 2013), which examined 32 lip products used by young women, indicates that lipsticks contain lead, aluminum, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, manganese, nickel, and titanium.  The authors of the study assumed, on the basis of usage data reported by the Personal Care Products Council, that the women in their study ingested all the lip products they applied each day and concluded that they could be ingesting potentially hazardous amounts of aluminum, chromium, and manganese. Although in 2007 the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reported the presence of lead in lipsticks and lip glosses (A poison kiss: the problem of lead in lipstick), and in 2009 and 2011 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published its own findings on lead in lipsticks, the Environmental Health Perspective study is the first to call attention on the presence of a wide range of heavy metals in...

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