[Ingredient Watch] Makeup in Your Breast Milk

So, here’s something new and fun from our scientist friends: A new study analyzing the chemical body burden of 54 mom/baby pairs detected the presence of UV filters in over 85 percent of breast milk samples.The more moms reported using cosmetics and sunscreen, the higher their levels of detected chemicals.

What are UV filters? Chemicals like 4-methylbenzylidene camphor and octocrylene, which are added to a big range of — you guessed it — cosmetics and sunscreens. Oh and are potential endocrine disruptors, which can wreak havoc with babies’ developing bodies.

But that’s no big deal since babies don’t wear cosmetics or sunscreen or drink breast milk… wait, crap.

I’m a little surprised that I haven’t been seeing more on this study in the media, except I think we’re all a bit exhausted by these kinds of reports, since they result in the same old debate:

  • Environmentalists/University Researchers/Viewers Like You: WTF is up with sketchy sunscreen ingredients ending up in breast milk? Why are they putting this crap in sunscreen? Why are they making sunscreen that can end up in my breast milk?
  • Beauty Industry: Just because those chemicals are in your bodily fluids doesn’t mean they’re bad for you. It’s such teensy, tiny doses anyway. Oh and also: “Could everyone please stop using fear tactics to sell cosmetics?” asks John Woodruff over at Cosmetics Business. (It’s actually more of a general rant, not a response to this specific study.)
  • Environmentalists/University Researchers/Viewers Like You: No, seriously. I’m not trying to sell cosmetics. WTF?

In fact: We have no earthly idea what level of chemical exposure is safe, let alone via breast milk. We also don’t have any idea how these UV filters are interacting with the whole host of other endocrine disrupting chemicals you and your baby are exposed to every day. All we have is more and more research showing how these chemicals get from our consumer goods to the inside of our bodies, plus a fair amount of data showing adverse health effects when you’re exposed to enough of these chemicals over a long enough period of time.

So it’s all well and good for the industry to keep saying “the dose makes the poison,” but dudes: We do not know the dose. We don’t even know exactly what we’re being dosed with. So how will we know when we get to the poison part?

For a more detailed (and less it’s-Monday-I’m-grouchy) explanation on all of this, check out my piece, “How to Keep Your Family Safe from Toxic Chemicals,” from the August 2010 issue of Parents Magazine.

[Via Cosmetics Design.]

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1 Comment

Filed under Government Watch, Ingredients

One response to “[Ingredient Watch] Makeup in Your Breast Milk

  1. I’m totally familiar with this concept, and since I’m pregnant and will eventually be breastfeeding, it definitely makes me nervous. Especially since I consider myself pretty cosmetic- and skincare-light, compared to much of the general public. But the one thing I do every single day (and have done for the past 15 years) is wear sunscreen, usually in the form of a facial moisturizer with SPF 30. But it’s nearly impossible to find an SPF moisturizer without uber chemicals in it, and the one I DID find that wasn’t bad (supposedly), I kind of hated. So now I don’t know what to do. I could (I suppose) alter my routine by using a separate moisturizer and sunscreen and find two products that aren’t as chemical heavy as the rest. Or I could just wear a wide-brimmed hat. For the rest of my life.

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