Bioaccumulation is the gradual accumulation of substances. It can occur as a desirable process, like when we need calcium in our bodies, or undesirable, which happens with many harmful substances such as PCBs, dioxins, microplastics, triclosan, mercury or phthalates in the body.
This unwanted bioaccumulation poses a major health risk (cancer, damage to organs (liver, kidneys.), damage to the fetus in the mother’s body, etc.) for humans and other animals because these substances often persist in the environment. The increase in the concentration of harmful substances in the body occurs through the intake of harmful substances from the air, with food, and through the skin or the food chain.
A good example of bioaccumulation in the food chain is plankton. Plankton contains mercury. Plankton gets eaten by fish living in an environment where mercury is present. Ultimately, these fish are eaten by humans or birds, and the mercury concentration in their bodies increases tremendously.
A carcinogen is a substance capable of causing cancer. Carcinogens sometimes occur naturally in our environment (UV rays in sunlight), but usually, it’s humans who generate carcinogens (exhaust fumes from cars, smoke). Once a carcinogen enters our bodies, it can interact with a cell’s DNA and produce mutations.
Cosmetic products are products that humans use for beauty care. The list of cosmetics is endless: creams, emulsions, lotions, skin gels and oils, face masks, foundations containing pigments, make-up powders, after-bath powders, hygiene powders, toilet soaps, deodorizing soaps, perfumes, toilet water and colognes, bath and shower preparations, depilatory preparations, deodorants and antiperspirants, hair colouring preparations, hair curling, straightening and fixing preparations, hair styling preparations, hair cleansing products, hair conditioners, hairdressing products, shaving products, make-up and make-up removal products, products for application to the lips, dental and oral care products, nail care and nail care products, external intimate hygiene products, sunbathing products, self-tanning products, skin lightening products and anti-wrinkle products.
All makeup products that humans use change their appearance. Makeup, mascara, powders, shadows, nail polish, lipsticks, etc.
EU regulation 1223
It is regulation No 1223/2009 issued by The European Parliament and the European Council. It is a legal instrument that applies to all EU member states. Thanks to this regulation, countries don’t need their laws for cosmetics. Therefore this regulation is a so-called Bible for cosmetics manufacturers and all humans interested in cosmetics. It regulates the following:
- Symbols for use on packaging
- List of prohibited or restricted substances or their maximum permissible concentration
- List of ingredients that can be used in the manufacture of cosmetics
- Cooperation between authorities involved in the cosmetics industry
- What the cosmetic safety report must contain (e.g. microbiological quality, physical and chemical properties and stability of the products, impurities, toxicological profile of substances, etc.)
- And much more…
As the name implies, these substances disrupt the hormonal functions of the body. Hormones are responsible for our growth, development, immunity, reproduction and behaviour. And what endocrine disruptors can do is essentially masquerade as a hormone and signal the body to do something. But it’s a scam. It’s not a real hormone.
This can lead to, for example, disrupted reproduction (woman having trouble getting pregnant, man not having functional sperm, breast cancer) or, in animals affecting behaviour (fish not wanting to reproduce, males showing female behaviour, not wanting to compete for food).
Fragrance or perfume is an umbrella term because it can be legally used for 3,619 fragrance ingredients. Why? The fragrance is a chemical mix that gives each product its distinct scent. Also, this mix of substances hides the secret ingredients that make the product to the intellectual property of the manufacturer (so none can 100% copy the ingredients). Some of the common fragrance chemicals have been linked to health effects, including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.
Forever chemicals (PFAS)
PFAS (short for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl substances) do not break down as other substances, so they accumulate in the environment and human body over time. PFAS are extremely persistent and effectively impossible to remove from the environment. They are used for long-lasting and waterproof effects, mostly in decorative cosmetics (mascaras, blushes), but also in packaging or dental flosses.
Greenwashing misleads the customer into thinking that a product and/or a whole company are environmentally friendly. Companies do this by using green or recycled packaging or fake certificates proving the natural origin of the products. Another popular greenwashing strategy is cherry-picking some ingredients for the marketing claim when in reality, the product only contains 0,001% of this ingredient…
In GreenGate, we follow the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). This system defines harmful substances as something that is dangerous to our health and may be carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic.
As the name implies, mutagenic comes from the word mutation. A mutagenic substance is a substance that causes mutation. How? Through a change in the DNA of a cell. DNA changes can harm cells and cause various diseases, like cancer. Such substances occur naturally in nature (radioactive substances, UV rays), but also artificially in the form of chemicals.
In Greengate, natural cosmetics are products without unnecessary chemicals and harmful substances. But from the legislative point of view, natural cosmetics is not a protected term. This means that anyone can define natural cosmetics as they wish. That’s why this term tends to be misused for greenwashing.
In Greengate, we use this term to label substances that don’t cause any health issues and don’t pollute the environment.
In Greengate, we understand regular cosmetics as conventional, commercial cosmetics available everywhere. Conventional brands that one already knows largely by heart. Regular cosmetics routinely contain unnecessary fillers and, unfortunately, dangerous substances.
Environmental persistence, as the name suggests, is the persistence of chemicals in the environment. It is the ability of a substance to persist in the environment over a long period of time.
These are very persistent substances (resistant to degradation by UV radiation, chemical or physical, biological, etc. decomposition). These are substances that accumulate in the environment and also accumulate in living organisms and threaten us and the entire living kingdom.
Preservatives are substances used to preserve materials against decay. In cosmetics, preservatives are usually used in products containing water.
Toxic substances can be natural (commonly found in nature) and synthetic (man-made). These are poisonous substances with negative health effects, like vomiting, organ damage, skin irritation, burns.
Toxicity is the property of chemical compounds causing poisoning to persons or animals that have ingested, inhaled or absorbed the substance through the skin. In principle, all chemical compounds can be toxic if taken excessively.
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