A program of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners

THE NON TOXIC BLACK OWNED BEAUTY PROJECT

Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project​

BCPP’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is tackling the environmental injustice of Black beauty with our list and database of non-toxic Black-owned beauty products that Black women can trust. See the list>

The products on our list are made and sold by Black-owned companies that are committed to safer beauty and personal care products, free of the toxic chemicals linked to health concerns that disproportionately impact Black women.

CSC’s Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project

is guided by an Advisory Committee made of representatives from leading nonprofit organizations and scientists working to address the unequal exposure Black women experience to unsafe ingredients in the beauty and personal care products they use every day. 

Beauty products marketed to Black women often contain the most toxic ingredients used by the cosmetics industry, including chemicals linked to breast and ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, reproductive harm, and more. This toxic exposure is of particular concern to Black women because they purchase and use more beauty products per capita than any other demographic – spending more than $7.5 billion dollars on beauty products a year and nine times more on hair products than the average consumer. Unfortunately, Black women also face many health disparities, including the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States. 

Black women are over-exposed to and under-protected from toxic chemicals in the beauty and personal care products they use every day.
  • Almost 7,000 Black women in the U.S. die of breast cancer each year[1]
  • Black women have the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in the US, with a rate 42% higher than that for White women.[2]
    • Black women also face other health disparities, including earlier puberty[3] and higher rates of hormone-mediated problems (e.g., preterm birth[4][5] and uterine fibroids,[6][7]) an increasing incidence of endometrial cancer,[8] and poorer ovarian cancer outcomes.[9]
  • Lack of regulation of a $100 Billion cosmetics industry especially harms Black women and girls.[10]
  • The 2.5 page federal cosmetic safety law has not been amended significantly since it was enacted over 80 years ago.[11]
  • 10,000 cosmetic ingredients are on the market today.[12]
  • 4,000 fragrance ingredients are found in products on the market today. [13]
  • Black women purchase $7.5 billion of beauty products each year. [14]
  • Black women purchase 9x more hair care products than any other demographic.[15]
  • Black women who regularly dye their hair with permanent hair dyes have a 44-75% higher risk of breast cancer.[16]
  • Black women who use chemical hair straighteners are 30% more likely to develop breast cancer.[16]

Thousands of industrial chemicals are used to create the personal care and beauty products that consumers and professional nail, hair, and beauty salon workers use every day. Many of these chemicals have been linked to serious health outcomes and harm the environment. The European Union (EU) has banned nearly 1800 chemicals from beauty and personal care products that are known to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. In stark contrast to the progress made by the rest of the world, in the U.S. the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has only banned or restricted eleven ingredients from cosmetics, to date.[17] 

Conservative estimates suggest Americans use roughly 10-12 personal care products each day (the actual number may be closer to 20-25), resulting in daily exposure to an average of 168 unique chemicals – many of which have been linked to endocrine disruption, earlier puberty,[3] cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm. Despite the growing body of scientific evidence and consumer concern, cosmetics are one of the least regulated consumer products on the market. The FDA does not have the authority to recall unsafe products, nor does it require pre-market safety testing of cosmetic ingredients. The federal law governing the $100 billion domestic cosmetics industry is only 2.5 pages long and has not been amended significantly since it was enacted over 80 years ago. Due to weak federal regulation of the more than 10,000 chemicals used to formulate the personal care and beauty products consumers use every day, companies can legally use hazardous chemicals without the public’s knowledge or consent. More than 40 other nations have stricter cosmetic safety regulations than the US.

Black women and professional salon workers experience some of the highest rates of exposures to toxic chemicals in the cosmetic products they use on themselves and their children or work with daily.[18][19][20] More than 40 other nations have stricter cosmetic safety regulations than the US. In their landmark publication “The environmental injustice of beauty: framing chemical exposures from beauty products as a health disparities concern,” Drs. Zota and Shamasunder were the first to frame racial/ethnic inequalities in beauty product–related chemical exposures as an environmental justice concern.[21][22] They argued that elevated exposures to beauty product chemicals in women of color are, in part, attributable to the “environmental injustice of beauty”—a framework that links intersectional systems of oppression (i.e., racism, sexism, classism) to Eurocentric beauty norms (e.g., societal preferences for light skin and straight hair) and racialized beauty practices, all of which can have long term consequences on women’s chemical exposures and their health and wellbeing.

For Black women, this issue is especially urgent. Almost 7,000 Black women in the U.S. die of breast cancer each year.[23] In fact, Black women have the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in the US, with a rate 41% higher than that for White women. Black women also face other health disparities, including earlier puberty[3] and higher rates of hormone-mediated problems (e.g., preterm birth[4][5] and uterine fibroids[6][7]), an increasing incidence of endometrial cancer,[8] and poorer ovarian cancer outcomes.[9]

These problems are compounded by the fact that Black women suffer from a high level of exposure to unsafe chemicals that are found in their beauty products – including hair dyes, hair relaxers and straighteners, skin lighteners, feminine douches, deodorant, etc.[18][19][20] Indeed, studies show that Black women and women of color are more likely to use personal care products, including hair products that contain unsafe chemicals.[24] In fact, recent evidence shows that among Black women, use of permanent hair dyes is associated with approximately 45-77% increased risk of breast cancer,[16][25][26] with greater risk for use of darker hair dye shades.[25] Regular use of chemical relaxers and straighteners have also been suggested to increase the risk of breast cancer in Black women,[26][27][28] particularly among women who use these products frequently, started using these products in childhood or adolescence, or use lye-based relaxers.

Some chemicals in hair care and personal care products such as phthalates,[29][30][31] heavy metals,[32] and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)[33] have been associated with earlier puberty among girls.[24] Heavy metals, such as cadmium and lead, are found in many cosmetic products used by Black women, such as lipsticks, eyeliners, eyeshadow, foundation, and more. These metals have been linked to higher instances of uterine fibroids.[34][35][36] In addition, some chemicals found in the personal care products and cosmetics used by Black women have also been associated with altered reproductive outcomes, including preterm birth,[37][38][39] gestational diabetes,[40] and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.[41] Chemicals known as aromatic hydrocarbons, which may show up on product labels as “toluene,” “benzene,” or “xylene,” have been shown to have toxic effects on developing fetuses.[42]

Chemical exposures also exist for professional salon workers – many of whom are Black women and other women of color – who use potentially hazardous products daily in their work, including nail polish hardeners, thinners, plasticizers, bleaches, conditioners, detergents, dyes, fixatives, relaxers, and straighteners that are most often used as commercially prepared mixtures.[43][44]

Another study, published in 2018 by the Silent Spring Institute in the journal Environmental Research,showed Black women are also potentially exposed to dozens of hazardous chemicals through the hair products they use.[44][45] The study looked at 18 different hair products including hot oil treatments, anti-frizz hair polishes, leave-in conditioners, root stimulators, hair lotions, and hair relaxers. A total of 45 endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) associated with a variety of health effects including reproductive disorders, birth defects, asthma, and cancer were detected, with each product containing anywhere between 4 and 30 EDCs. Data from the same research showed that these chemicals were able to alter the body’s normal hormone receptors linked to breast cancer and diabetes.[47]

As the Black beauty industry grows, the fact that the chemicals in Black beauty and personal care products are not adequately tested for safety and are largely unregulated raises real concerns for Black women’s health.[21][22]

CSC’s Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project started back in 2020. In the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, a growing drumbeat to support and shop Black-owned businesses emerged. Social media exploded with lists of recommended Black-owned businesses, including beauty companies.

Upon closer examination, we became concerned that many of the lists of Black owned beauty brands recommended by influencers and mainstream media alike, included products made with toxic ingredients.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics knew that Black women were already over-exposed to toxic beauty products because of racist and sexist Eurocentric beauty standards.

So, with the guidance and help of a broad-based Advisory Committee made up of leading NGOs and scientists working to improve Black women’s health, we launched the Non-Toxic Black Beauty project and curated our own list of safer Black beauty brands to get non-toxic beauty products into the hands of Black women and girls. The project has since grown from there. 

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The Goal

With the goal of reducing Black women and girls’ exposure to unsafe ingredients in beauty and personal care products, the Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project set out to achieve the following:

Create a list of non-toxic beauty products made by Black-owned beauty brands, so Black women can shop with confidence knowing the beauty and personal care products they are purchasing do not contain chemicals linked to negative health effects.

Equip Black women with tip cards and other resources they can trust to help them make healthy choices.

Grow the safe Black beauty industry by elevating companies that are making safer beauty and personal care products for Black women and providing technical support to Black-owned beauty businesses that don’t make the list and want to do better.

Raise public, manufacturer, and retailer awareness about the hazardous chemicals in Black beauty products.

Expand our Red List of chemicals of concern in cosmetics to include health outcomes of particular concern for Black women. These health concerns include:

  • allergic reactions
  • diabetes
  • early puberty
  • endometriosis
  • infertility
  • earlier age at menopause
  • less successful IVF outcomes
  • maternal health
  • ovarian cancer
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • pregnancy complications
  • preterm birth
  • uterine fibroids 

Featured Resources

Get our Black beauty tip cards! Save, print, or share with a friend. 

Top Toxic Chemicals by Product Category

We screened thousands of Black beauty products to find the top toxic chemicals to avoid when you shop. Top Toxic Chemicals >

Toxic Chemicals in Black Beauty Products

The full list of toxic chemical ingredients we found when we screened thousands of Black beauty products.

Top Toxic Chemicals by Product Category

We screened thousands of Black beauty products to find the top toxic chemicals to avoid when you shop. Top Toxic Chemicals >

Toxic Chemicals in Black Beauty Products

The full list of toxic chemical ingredients we found when we screened thousands of Black beauty products.

Advisory Committee Members

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project is guided by a 17-member advisory committee made up of leading NGOs and scientists working to improve Black women’s health by addressing the toxic beauty products marketed to them. 

Findings & Methodology

Working with our partner, Clearya, we screened the Black Beauty Product Database against Tier 1 Red List chemicals. Brands that did not have any of the Tier 1 chemicals in their products were placed on a list of Non-Toxic Black Beauty Products, which includes 78 brands and 696 products. These brands and their products will be listed on the CSC website in a searchable database by name and product type.

The top 15 most frequently found chemicals were: 

  1. Titanium Dioxide(in inhalable forms only) 
  2. Crystalline Silica (in inhalable forms only) 
  3. Retinol (Vitamin A) (when in daily doses >10,000 IU, or 3,000 retinol equivalents) 
  4. Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) 
  5. Parabens (methyl, ethyl, butyl, and propylparaben) 
  6. Butyl Acetate 
  7. Ethyl Acetate 
  8. Benzophenone-1 
  9. Carbon Black 
  10. Diazolidinyl Urea 
  11. DMDM Hydantoin 
  12. Triethanolamine (TEA) 
  13. Siloxanes 
  14. Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate 
  15. Benzophenone-3 or Oxybenzone

Get our full list of top chemicals of concern found in Black bodycare, haircare, makeup, nail, skincare, and sunscreen products. 

Generating the List of Non-Toxic Black Beauty Products ​

The Campaign’s Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project created a list of safer Black Beauty products in order to help consumers make more informed purchases and guide the efforts of manufacturers and retailers to make and sell safer products. 

Working with our partner, Clearya, we screened the Black Beauty Product Database against Tier 1 Red List chemicals. Brands that did not have any of the Tier 1 chemicals in their products were placed on a list of Non-Toxic Black Beauty Brands, which includes 78 brands and 696 products. These brands and their products are featured in our searchable Non-Toxic Black-Owned Beauty Product Database.

  1. Through a survey of mainstream and ethnic beauty magazines and media, we created an initial list of over 400 beauty brands that were identified as selling personal care and beauty products primarily to Black women. 
  2. We vetted this initial list of brands and removed companies that were less than 51% Black-owned, did not have Black beauty products as their main product line or did not provide ingredient lists on their website. This resulted in a list of 283 Black-owned beauty brands. 
  3. We then scraped the product ingredients from the websites of the Black beauty brands to produce an ingredient database of 7,250 individual products covering 10 different product types. We organized the products into 9 categories (see table below): babycare/kidcare, bodycare, fragrance, haircare, makeup, nail products, personal hygiene, skin care, and sunscreen. 
  4. For each product we collected the product name, price, UPC, an image of the product, webpage link and the full ingredients list provided on the website. All of this information will be made available on our searchable database (coming soon).

     

Product Type CategoryDescription
Babycare/KidcareBaby powder, baby or kid shampoo, baby or kid conditioner, detangler, diaper cream, baby lotion, baby cleansers and soaps – anything with baby or kid in the name (except for sunscreen)
BodycareBody lotions, body butter, body scrubs, foot creams, body oil, bubble bath, bath bombs, bath salts
FragrancePerfume/parfume, body spray, vaginal spray, body mists, scents, body fragrance, aromatherapy, essential oils – products whose primary purpose is to add scent to any part of the body
HaircareShampoo, conditioner, gel, mousse, hair dye, hair straighteners, relaxers, hair oils
MakeupFoundation, face powder, concealer, lipstick, lip liner, blush, eye shadow, mascara, eyeliner
Nail ProductsNail polish, topcoat, nail polish remover, cuticle cream, nail glue (anything with nail in the name)
Personal HygieneDeodorant, mouthwash, soap, toothpaste, bodywash, liquid soap, 3 in 1 products (body wash, bubble bath, shampoo)
Skin CareFacial cleansers, lip balm, moisturizers with or without SPF, anti-aging products, toner, masks, facial scrubs, creams, peels – products used on the face that are not make-up
SunscreenSunscreen creams, sprays, oils (note: make-up with SPF goes in the makeup category)

A. The newly expanded Red List includes health effects of greater concern to Black Women

In 2022, we expanded the Red List of Chemicals of Concern to include cosmetic chemicals of greater concern for Black women’s health. Explore the expanded Red List.

We worked with our Advisory Committee to identify health issues of concern to Black women that were not already captured in the 2018 BCPP Red List. These were identified as: 

Diabetes, Early puberty, Endometriosis, Infertility, Earlier age at menopause, Less successful IVF outcomes, Maternal health, Obesity, Ovarian cancer, Polycystic ovarian syndrome, Pregnancy complications, Preterm birth, Pubertal development, Reproductive health, Uterine fibroids and Allergic reactions.

Because we were unable to identify authoritative scientific or governmental organizations which identified chemical exposures associated with the majority of these health effects, we completed a scientific literature review to investigate these potential links ourselves.

B. Scientific Literature Review

We performed multiple PubMed searches utilizing keywords to find articles in the peer-reviewed literature that connected these health outcomes with chemicals in personal care products. See Appendix 2 for the full list of keywords and search terms.

We used a formal scoping review process to review the articles. Scoping reviews are a method of synthesizing evidence to provide a wide perspective on a research topic. They are especially relevant for complex areas of research where different research methods may apply and offer a rigorous, transparent, and comprehensive approach to reviewing the literature. Unlike systematic reviews, researchers may not rate the quality of the literature, because scoping reviews are a means to get a broad overview of a research area.

For each of the health concerns, we screened the titles from the PubMed searches for relevance. The abstracts were then reviewed for possible inclusion by two independent researchers with a third acting as a tiebreaker. Next, we read the full papers and entered the findings and other details of the studies on a spreadsheet that tracked our findings. We did not weigh chemicals of concern against one another but assessed if findings of associations were significant and therefore suggested concern.

In total our process resulted in 8,119 titles and 580 full papers whose data were entered in the final spreadsheet. We reviewed these articles and identified 141 discrete studies finding a significant association between chemicals in personal care products and health outcomes of greater concern to Black women. We expanded the BCPP Red List to include the findings from these studies. See our Red List for an annotated bibliography of the scientific articles referenced in Tier 1. 

FAQs

To qualify for CSC’s list of non-toxic Black beauty brands, brands needed to 1) be Black owned, 2) market primarily to Black women, and 3) list all of the ingredients for their products on their websites or provide us with any product ingredients missing from their website. If a brand did not meet one or more of these criteria, it was not considered for the list. 

If a brand made it past this first stage of vetting, we then screened its product ingredients against the Campaign’s Red List of “do not use” chemicals in cosmetics, a list made up of 241 chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other serious diseases and conditions. If any of a brand’s products contained one or more of these chemicals, the brand was excluded from the final list. Brands with undisclosed fragrance ingredients who were unable to certify that none of their fragrance ingredients were present on Tier 1 of the CSC’s updated Red List of Chemicals of Concern in Cosmetics, were also excluded from the final list. 

Still have a brand you think should be included? Let us know! The Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project is a living project, and we would love to hear about your favorite clean Black beauty brands so we can vet them for next year’s list. Submit your favorite brand using this form. 

If you are a Black beauty brand owner and want your products to be featured on our next list, please fill out this form! We’d love to include your brand for consideration in the next round of Black beauty product screening. 

One of the primary goals of this project is to grow the safe Black beauty industry by 1) elevating Black-owned companies that are making and selling non-toxic Black beauty and personal care products; and 2) by providing technical support to Black-owned beauty businesses that don’t make the list and want to do better.  We offered personalized reports to companies that do not make the list, identifying the ingredients in their products that appear on the CSC Tier 1 “do not use” Red List of chemicals of concern in cosmetics, and the related adverse health effects. We hope that companies will use this information to reformulate their products in order to make it onto the next list of Non-Toxic Black Beauty Products. 

If you see the Non-Toxic Black Beauty Brand Product seal on a product, it means that the product was not made with any of the 241 chemicals on the CSC Red List of Chemicals of Concern in Cosmetics that have been linked to negative health effects, including those of greater concern to Black women.  

Our seal is the only cosmetic safety seal that addresses chemicals linked to health effects of particular concern to Black women (diabetes, early puberty, endometriosis, infertility, less successful IVF outcomes, adverse maternal health effects, obesity, ovarian cancer, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pregnancy complications, preterm birth, uterine fibroids, and allergic reactions that are not represented by the “authoritative lists” of hazardous chemicals created by governmental and scientific organizations such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program, etc., which mainly focus on cancer, birth defects, and reproductive/developmental harm.   

 

The Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project began in 2021, and product ingredient lists were evaluated for safety during the summer of 2021. Any additional products that were marketed by a Black beauty brand that made the list after the company’s product safety evaluations were completed, were not awarded the Non-Toxic Black Beauty seal. Products with the seal include only those whose ingredient lists were vetted for safety. We plan to re-evaluate brands already represented on the CSC List of Non-Toxic Black Beauty products on a yearly basis to identify any new products that qualify for the Non-Toxic Black Beauty Brand Product seal, as well as new Black owned beauty brands. 

This project was guided by an Advisory Committee made up of a broad array of non-profit organizations and scientists working to better understand and respond to the over-exposure Black women experience to toxic chemicals in the beauty products marketed to them, including representatives from Black Women for Wellness, We Act for Environmental Justice, California Black Health Network, Silent Spring Institute, Tigerlily Foundation, Clean Beauty for Black Girls, Clearya and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners along with top scientists from Chapman University, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, George Washington University Milken School of Public Health, the California Department of Public Health and Occidental College. 

We plan to reassess our current products and screen new products annually. Stay tuned for 2023 to learn how you can help grow our list of non-toxic Black beauty products.  

Yes! The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has been hard at work since 2004 advocating for the passage of comprehensive, health protective, federal cosmetic safety legislation. See About to learn more and Take Action to support our campaigns.

Sources

[1] DeBard, Amanda. “Black Women in US Most Likely to Die of Breast Cancer.” The Komen Blog. February 12, 2020. Available online: https://blog.komen.org/blog/black-women-in-us-most-likely-to-die-from-breast-cancer/#:~:text=Breast%20cancer%20is%20also%20the%20second%20leading%20cause%20of%20cancer,Black%2FAfrican%2DAmerican%20women. Accessed July 7, 2022.

[2]  Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “African American Women and Breast Cancer.” Available online: https://www.bcpp.org/resource/african-american-women-and-breast-cancer/. Accessed July 7, 2022. 

[3] Herman-Giddens, Marcia E., et al. “Secondary sexual characteristics and menses in young girls seen in office practice: a study from the Pediatric Research in Office Settings network.” Pediatrics 99.4 (1997): 505-512. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.99.4.505 

[4] Burris, H. H., Lorch, S. A., Kirpalani, H., Pursley, D. M., Elovitz, M. A., & Clougherty, J. E. (2019). Racial disparities in preterm birth in USA: a biosensor of physical and social environmental exposures. Archives of disease in childhood, 104(10), 931–935. https://doi.org/10.1136/archdischild-2018-316486 

[5] Osterman M, Hamilton B, Martin JA, Driscoll AK, Valenzuela, CP. Births: final data for 2020. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2021;70(17):1–50. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr70/nvsr70-17.pdf

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[7] Fuldeore, Mahesh J., and Ahmed M. Soliman. “Patient-reported prevalence and symptomatic burden of uterine fibroids among women in the United States: findings from a cross-sectional survey analysis.” International journal of women’s health 9 (2017): 403. https://doi.org/10.2147/ijwh.s133212

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[10] Yang, Lily. “How the Beauty Industry is Hurting Women of Color.” The Daily Californian. March 5, 2021. Available online: https://www.dailycal.org/2021/03/05/how-the-beauty-industry-is-hurting-women-of-color/. Accessed July 7, 2022.

[11] Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Laws and Regulations on Chemicals in Cosmetics.” Available online: https://safecosmetics.org/resources/regulations/. Accessed July 7, 2022.

[12] McConnell, Jamie. “Antiquated Law Allows Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics and Puts Health at Risk.” Women’s Voices for the Earth. July 29, 2021. Available online: https://www.womensvoices.org/2021/07/29/antiquated-law-allows-toxic-chemicals-in-cosmetics-and-puts-health-at-risk/. Accessed July 7, 2022.

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[18] Huang, Tianyi, et al. “Gender and racial/ethnic differences in the associations of urinary phthalate metabolites with markers of diabetes risk: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001–2008.” Environmental Health 13.1 (2014): 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-069x-13-6

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[30]Harley, K. G., Berger, K. P., Kogut, K., Parra, K., Lustig, R. H., Greenspan, L. C., Calafat, A. M., Ye, X., & Eskenazi, B. (2019). Association of phthalates, parabens and phenols found in personal care products with pubertal timing in girls and boys. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 34(1), 109–117. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dey337

[31] Jurewicz, J., & Hanke, W. (2011). Exposure to phthalates: reproductive outcome and children health. A review of epidemiological studies. International journal of occupational medicine and environmental health, 24(2), 115–141. https://doi.org/10.2478/s13382-011-0022-2

[32] Ashrap, P., Sánchez, B. N., Téllez-Rojo, M. M., Basu, N., Tamayo-Ortiz, M., Peterson, K. E., Meeker, J. D., & Watkins, D. J. (2019). In utero and peripubertal metals exposure in relation to reproductive hormones and sexual maturation and progression among girls in Mexico City. Environmental research, 177, 108630. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2019.108630

[33] Chen, A., Chung, E., DeFranco, E. A., Pinney, S. M., & Dietrich, K. N. (2011). Serum PBDEs and age at menarche in adolescent girls: analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004. Environmental research, 111(6), 831–837. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2011.05.016

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