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What to Know About the ‘Body Burden’ of Chemicals in Products You Use

"These concentrations really do build up"

Products we use on our skin and hair contain a number of chemicals that some studies have suggested to be hazardous.

The personal care product industry is confident that these trace amounts of chemicals are safe.

But some experts say what you should consider is not the tiny amount of these chemicals that you may encounter daily, but rather the cumulative "body burden" they have.

"These concentrations really do build up," said Nneka Leiba. She's a vice president with the activist group the Environmental Working Group.

"Not only are we being exposed to these ingredients in personal care products, but they're in our food, water," she continued. "When you look at your overall burden each day, the concentration is high."

So are manufacturers taking the "body burden" into consideration when they formulate the products we use?

They are, said Dr. Jay Ansell, a vice president of the Personal Care Products Council. The group is the leading national trade association representing personal care product companies.

"It's something we're looking at integrating more effectively," Ansell said.

There's no research to show how long-term use of these chemicals affects our health. Researchers say we can limit our chemical exposure by using fewer products and reading labels.

If you're concerned about the unknowns around the long-term exposure and want to switch to products with fewer chemicals, experts say you don't have to toss everything. Just make a few changes and keep the things you love.

"Look at the products you use most frequently, the ones you use all over your body, and if you need to, perhaps change those out," Leiba said.

Ansell agreed that every consumer has a choice.

"One of the things we recognize is it's not enough to be safe, you have to feel safe," he said.

"I feel confident in saying that the products on the market are safe, but that doesn't mean you have to use them," he added.

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