Study finds PFAS chemicals in hundreds of cosmetics

Researchers say you likely won't know, because that information is not on the product's label

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)- We put it on our face and eyes and lips, but researchers say most of us don’t know there are dangerous chemicals in our makeup. 

A team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame tested  231 makeup products they purchased in the United States and Canada. 52% tested positive for PFAS. Some of the highest levels were found in foundation, water-proof mascara, and long-lasting lipsticks. “Some of the concentrations that we found cannot be explained away by carry-over contamination. They are evident of intentional use of PFAS chemicals in cosmetic products, ” says researcher Heather Whitehead.

PFAS are a class of man-made chemicals used to produce thousands of products. Over time, the compounds can accumulate in the body and have been linked to infertility, Thyroid disease, and cancer. 

Concern over PFAS is growing right here in La Crosse County. In March, the Wisconsin DNR issued an interim, area-wide drinking water advisory for the Town of Campbell. More than 500 wells has tested positive for PFAS. The DNR notified families with contaminated wells and is providing them bottled water. Consumers using PFAS positive makeup likely have no clue because most manufacturers don’t list it on the label.  “We’re not trying to intentionally go after any company. We’re trying to go after an industry to do the right thing by its consumer, ” says Notre Dame professor and researcher Graham Peaslee.

The Notre Dame research caught the attention of Congress. Lawmakers introduced the “No PFAS in Cosmetics Act”. “If we could get the same cosmetic with the same function without the fluorinated chemicals, why wouldn’t we do that, ” says Peaslee.

Even if you don’t wear makeup, researchers believe removing PFAS from cosmetics protect us all by keeping these toxic chemicals out of trash. “These are forever chemicals. They go into the landfill, they go back in, and we drink it and future generations will drink it, ” says Peaslee.

The researchers didn’t name the products they tested because so many contained PFAS. If you have concerns, they suggest you avoid products labeled as water-proof or long lasting.