16 Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Found in Teenage Girls

A small study has found that adolescent girls in the United States have 16 different chemicals from four chemical classes in their blood and urine that might disrupt the normal functioning of their hormonal systems.

These endocrine disruptors -- phthalates, triclosan, parabens and musks -- are associated with cosmetics and body care products, which teen girls use in higher doses than other segments of the population, according to the Environmental Working Group, which conducted study. Further, because young women are going through rapid development, their longterm health, particularly their reproductive health, could be at risk.

The health risks of the chemicals is not definitively understood, but each has been the target of efforts by consumer, health and environmental advocates who view independent scientific findings as justification for limiting or eliminating exposure.

girl putting on makeupgirl putting on makeupBecause these chemicals mimic hormones, they may cause effects at very low levels, just as hormones act naturally as chemical messengers to cause changes in the body at low concentrations.

The 20 teens tested -- a small sample that only raises concerns, rather than definitively describing exposure rates -- used an average of more than 16 personal care products daily.

Finding cosmetics and personal care products free of suspect ingredients is notoriously difficult. Labels are often misleading, ingredients are listed with confusing alternative descriptions or not at all, and many terms -- like natural or even organic -- commonly found on labels are unregulated. (See 3 Tips for Avoiding Phthalates for some help.)

In a similar, unrelated study, the Environmental Protection Agency has found that women living on either the East or West coast are much more likely to carry a body burden of mercury that threatens the health of developing fetuses. Mercury interrupts normal development, leading to permanent brain damage and other health problems. One in five women living in the Northeast is contaminated above safe levels for fetuses, according to the study, detailed by Environmental Health News. People are exposed to mercury primarily from eating tainted fish, and the coasts are more susceptible because of access to fresh fish, wealth enough to buy it, and relatively high Asian populations that eat a diet heavy on fish. The Environmental Defense Fund's Seafood Selector is a good source for defining which fish at the market have less pollution.

Related Links
13 Safe, Nontoxic Sunscreens
11 Lead-Free Lipsticks
7 Safe, Nontoxic Insect Repellents
Everything You Need to Know About Bisphenol-A
For More Tips & Tricks You Can Count On: Subscribe to Good Housekeeping & Save!

Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.