Instead of mercury, some major brands use phenoxyethanol, methylisothiazolinone, parabens and formaldehyde releasers as preservatives, according to the group’s database.
Such substitutes also may not be benign; formaldehyde is carcinogenic to humans, and parabens may be linked to hormone disruption. But none of the substitutes is as toxic as mercury, said Sonya Lunder, an Environmental Working Group senior analyst.
Adams said many big cosmetics companies use preservatives such as mercury and parabens because they are good at what they do – extend shelf life.
“They (large companies) are looking for a 5-year shelf life for their product because it’s all about cost of goods for them,” she said. “Cosmetics will go bad very fast.”
Adams wouldn’t divulge what Afterglow Cosmetics uses instead, but said they adhere to a France-based network that developed a non-toxic standard for cosmetics.
“We see alternatives, why not just include [eye makeup] in the ban?” Malkan said. “Women should not be putting something so toxic right by eyeballs.”
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.