Calls are growing for Canada and the United States to ban a toxic industrial chemical that can contaminate water systems for generations a study revealed it has been found in over half of all cosmetics sold in North America.

Democratic US Senator Richard Blumenthal presented on Tuesday the bipartite No PFAS in the cosmetics law, which seeks to purge the ingredient of cosmetics across the country.

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What are PFAs and where are they found?

Polyfluoroalkylated Substances (PFAs) are a group of over 4,700 substances of human origin that are commonly found in many industrial and consumer products, including fire-fighting foams, textiles, kitchenware and food packaging.

They are often added to cosmetics to increase their durability and water resistance and are known as “eternal chemicals” because they persist in air, water and soil and can undergo transport to. long distance in the atmosphere.

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Researchers tested over 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products, and 47% of mascaras contained fluoride, an indicator of PFAS.

According to the study, published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, the highest levels of PFAS were found in 82% water-repellent mascara and long-wear lipstick, 62%.

After further testing, the study also found that 29 products with higher fluoride concentrations contained between four and 13 specific PFA chemicals. Only one article listed PFA as an ingredient on its label.

Dr Miriam Diamond, co-author of the AFP study, said her cohort agreed not to disclose the names and brands of products used in the study because it would be “unfair” to single out a single one. mark when there could be thousands. other brands that his team has not tested. She said her team had also agreed to keep the two places where they buy the products a secret, but that “a lot of people are going there.”

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What does PFA mean to you?

Over a short period of time, human exposure to AFP is generally not considered to be toxic. But over an extended period of time, these chemicals have been linked to cancer, liver and kidney damage, altered metabolism of a person, diabetes, and type 2 diabetes.

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Diamond, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Toronto, said there is also growing evidence that exposure to the compounds can impair fertility, lead to reduced fetal growth, increase the likelihood of developing a COVID-19 severe and has raised concerns about the decrease in COVID-19. 19 vaccine efficacy.

Diamond said that PFAs do not directly harm the skin, but rather can be absorbed through the skin and seep into different parts of a person’s body.

“If it’s lipstick, it could go through your mouth, which increases your levels in the body. And then these increased levels have been linked to the health effects, ”she said. “Each time, a little will come into you.”

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Diamond said little is known about the level of PFA that should be absorbed before causing serious harm to a person, but “it will differ from person to person.”

She urged consumers to avoid buying mascara marketed as a waterproof liquid lipstick and other cosmetic products that advertise themselves as “durable.”

Environmental concerns

Dr. Yolanda Hedberg, Canada Research Chair in Corrosion Science at Western University, said that although relatively unreactive, PFAs contain a strong fluorine and carbon chemical bond which is “very, very difficult. to degrade ”, even by combustion.

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“It’s very difficult for the biosphere or different processes to break them down into more common molecules,” she said.

Humans need to absorb large doses of PFA to start showing serious effects, but this is not the case for aquatic environments like lakes, fish and wildlife that survive in the water.

Even with low doses of PFA, “you would start to see that they either don’t grow or reproduce as much as you normally do or change their behavior,” Hedberg said of aquatic life like fish. fish and shellfish.

“But if the doses were even higher, they would be killed, and it happens at doses low enough for this class of chemicals, for different sensitive species in our environment.”

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The real problem with PFAs is that the toxins they produce build up over time, Hedberg said, rather than showing immediate results. The current generation, for example, may not feel the dramatic effects of AFP, but said it could “increase the risk of cancer in our children.”

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“The more we use these chemicals, the more we magnify the problems,” she said.

Should Canada ban them?

Experts interviewed by Global News seem to suggest that Canada should consider a ban on ATP.

Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan examines each chemical individually and assesses the risk of each product. But with so many different types of AFP, Hedberg said it would be safer to ban them altogether.

The process of banning a chemical can take years, she noted, adding that it is easy for chemical producers to circumvent the law.

“Producers just change a tiny little bond in a molecule and that’s [no longer] covered by current legislation and you have to start this whole legislative process all over again, ”she said.

“And we can’t do this in one country. We have to do it internationally, because otherwise it just produced elsewhere. And they’re so bio-persistent, it’s like with a virus, you can’t stop it at a border. They will eventually move around the world.

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Diamond said labeling the presence of PFA on products was “absolutely not enough” and called on regulators to ban these chemicals for non-essential use.

“For me, cosmetics are non-essential use,” she said.

“The use of firefighting equipment or waterproofing and durability? Yes, this is really important and we need to protect our firefighters. But in cosmetics? No.”

The Government of Canada has published a Notice of Intent to tackle the large AFP class in April, and began investing in research, surveillance activities and the development of an AFP status report expected to be submitted over the next two years .

“If a risk to human health is identified with the use of PFA compounds in cosmetic products, or in cases where a product is sold without all the ingredients appearing on the label, Health Canada will take the appropriate measures under of the Cosmetic Regulations ”, Health Canada said in an emailed statement to Global News.

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Under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act (FDA), manufacturers are prohibited from selling cosmetic products containing substances that may cause injury under “normal conditions of use”.

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Article 16 of the FDA states that “no one shall sell cosmetics containing or covering any substance which may harm the health of the user.” from Canada Cosmetics Regulations also require disclosure of all ingredients on the label of all cosmetic products sold nationwide.

But Diamond said it is possible that some cosmetic manufacturers “may not even know that PFAs [are] in their product due to complicated supply chains.

“We cannot afford to contaminate our drinking water as well as our body” she said before. “Is your beauty worth taking a risk with your health?” “

–With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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