Cosmetics, pesticides and chemicals available to buy: are consumers misguided about their safety?

Systematic Review Methods for Advancing Chemical Risk Assessment

Consumers generally seem to believe that products available for purchase are proven to be safe, and that the government would prevent unsafe products from being sold to us. This is not true.

Products may contain ingredients with very limited safety testing or, for example, no data on reproductive effects from prenatal exposure.

Agencies should adopt systematic review methods to evaluate the toxicity of chemicals. The public could greatly benefit from this, in terms of health and simply from a consumer right-to-know perspective.

Dr Paula Johnson, leader of the California Safe Cosmetics Program at the California Department of Public Health. Cosmetic image by Conrad.

Despite accounting for the most highly cited papers in medicine, systematic review is not yet widely used in chemical risk assessment. Lessons from the field of medicine could help provide clearer answers to questions about chemical safety, according to researchers.


  • Are my cosmetics a health risk? Seeking straight answers to tricky questions,, 7 June 2016.
  • Scientific controversy? Systematic review can help, elsevier, June 2, 2016.
  • Systematic Review Methods for Advancing Chemical Risk Assessment, journals.elsevier.

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