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Testing Finds Toxic Teens in Massachusetts

September 24, 2008

Boston, MA – Beauty is more than skin deep - especially when it comes to the content of the cosmetics used to achieve it. Girls across the country, ages 14 to 19, were tested to see if their systems retain some common chemicals used in popular beauty products. The results, released today, provide the first data on the presence of those chemicals in young women.

The Environmental Working Group, says the teens were tested for 25 compounds linked to cancer or reproductive problems. Emma Spencer of Winchester was in the test group; 14 toxins were found in her system.

"You just never really know what they put in a lot of products. It's really, really shocking to find so many different chemicals in me."

The report asks cosmetic companies to look at safer, alternative ingredients in products marketed to teens. Some cosmetics companies say they are working on that; others say the levels of chemicals are within safety standards.
Cindy Luppi, New England program director of the group Clean Water Action, says hormone-altering chemicals are especially dangerous to teens.

"Their bodies are at a hormone-intense period. It's not a good time to be adding hormone mimickers and hormone disrupters to their systems."

Federal law does not require companies to test cosmetic ingredients for safety; nor does it require all the ingredients be listed on product labels. However, Deborah Shields of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, says a growing body of science is making the connection between early chemical exposure and cancer.

"Exposure at age 15 can literally lead to breast cancer later on. There's growing evidence showing that this, in fact, is the case."

The Massachusetts Senate passed legislation to require companies to use safer alternatives in consumer products, and such legislation will be considered again early next year. See the full report about the tests online at

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MA