Scientific American - Hair Products Popular with Black Women May Contain Harmful Chemicals

May 11, 2018

By: Inga Vesper

Excerpt: "Hair care products used primarily by black women in the U.S. contain a variety of chemicals that have been linked to asthma, hormone disruptions and even cancer, a recent study found.

An analysis of 18 commonly used hair cosmetics such as relaxers (which chemically straighten hair), root stimulators and anti-frizz products detected 66 chemicals with potentially toxic effects. The majority of such compounds were not mentioned on the products’ ingredient labels, researchers say.

Eight in 10 of the products studied contained parabens and phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors—substances that disturb the body’s hormone balance. Regular exposure to phthalates can cause early puberty and preterm births. The researchers also detected nonylphenol, a compound associated with obesity and a higher risk of breast cancer, in 30 percent of the hair treatments. “We found dozens of these chemicals in the products, with multiple chemicals in each product,” says Jessica Helm, a research fellow at the Silent Spring Institute and lead author of the study, published in April in Environmental Research. “Some contained as many as 30, and that is important because these chemicals can have additive effects in combination,” she adds. ...

The researchers detected several chemicals—including benzophenone, diethanolamine and nonylphenol—that are banned in the European Union and strictly regulated in California under the state’s Proposition 65 list of harmful chemicals. These substances are mostly used as preservatives or plasticizers to create the products’ creamy consistency. Five of the compounds studied had the highest concentrations in products aimed at children, and the largest variety of chemicals was often present in products marketed for everyday use."