Calls for regulation of New Zealand makeup industry after toxic 'forever' chemicals found in cosmetics

A study in the United States has prompted calls for regulation of the makeup industry in New Zealand after an alarming number of cosmetic products containing toxic chemicals were found.

US congresswoman Debbie Dingell is fighting to ban toxic chemicals in cosmetics after researchers there tested 231 products for fluorine, an indicator for polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

They're more commonly known as 'forever' chemicals, because they don't break down in the environment or in the body. They're often found in food packaging and nonstick cookware, like Teflon. 

Of the products tested, PFA indicators were found in 56 percent of foundations and eye products, 48 percent of lip products, and 47 percent of mascaras. 

In cosmetics, PFAs help create a slippery shine like those seen in lip glosses and makes products like mascara waterproof.

But these chemicals can accumulate in our bodies over time and have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer, decreased fertility, liver failure, and hormone disruption. 

"In many cases, these chemicals are being used when there are much better alternatives, and they're being used unnecessarily," says Jessica Wilson, head of research at Consumer NZ.

When researchers ran a more extensive test on 29 products, they found toxins in all of them - but only one had the chemical listed among ingredients.

Consumer NZ says that's where it gets dangerous.

"It's certainly the opposite of what a good manufacturer should be doing," Wilson says. "If you don't know what's in a product, you can't make an informed choice on if you want to buy it."

But even if toxic chemicals were listed, do we check what's in our makeup? People Newshub spoke to tended not to check.

"No I don't," one says.

"I seldom check it," said another.

Only one person said they check the ingredients in their makeup products.

"I only buy things that are vegan and safe for my skin," they said.

Consumer NZ says there's not enough research into products available in New Zealand, and with the potential of such adverse effects, the consequences could be more than just skin deep.