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Columbia, Earthjustice Study Finds Most U.S. Children Use Toxic Makeup Products During Play

Children can be exposed to lead, asbestos, and other toxic chemicals through makeup and body products


Zahra Ahmad,, (517) 898-0924

A study by scientists at Earthjustice and Columbia University published today found that most children in the United States use makeup and body products that may contain carcinogens and other toxic chemicals.

The report, based on more than 200 surveys, found that 70% of parents say their children 12 or younger use makeup and body products marketed to children, like glitter, face paint, and lip gloss. Research shows these products have toxic chemicals, like lead, asbestos, PFAS, phthalates, and formaldehyde in them. Toxic chemicals found in children’s makeup and body products (CMBP), like heavy metals, are especially harmful to infants and children. These chemicals, whether intentionally added or present as contaminants, are linked to cancer, neurodevelopmental harm, and other serious and irreversible health effects.

“It is alarming that industry is being allowed to sell makeup and body products marketed to children that contain extremely toxic chemicals. Findings from this study can help federal agencies better understand how children are using these products and will hopefully spur agencies to act to protect children from toxic chemical exposures,” said Earthjustice Attorney Lakendra Barajas. “Unfortunately, currently little is being done at the federal level to protect children from toxic chemicals in children’s makeup and body products.”

According to Columbia and Earthjustice’s study, of the surveyed children, about 54% use CMBP at least monthly, 12% use CMBP daily, about 20% use CMBP for eight hours or more at a time, and a third of them reported ingesting the products in the last year. Compared to other racial groups, Latino children use CMBP more often and more for play. The study found that over one-third of the surveyed children are Latino and that 65% of those children use CMBP.

This study comes as some states, like New York and Washington, consider tightening their consumer regulations around toys, makeup, and personal care products.

The study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

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Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.