New Initiatives in Personal Care Product Safety, Jan. 2000
Cancer Prevention Coalition is pleased to report precedential recent break-through initiatives in consumer product safety information.
Fragrances and Perfumes:
As emphasized in the Safe Shopper’s Bible, fragrances and perfumes in mainstream cosmetics and toiletries, besides in soaps and other household products, are leading causes of allergy, sensitization, and irritation. Their toxicity is also in serious question as is their contribution to indoor air pollution.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has reported that the fragrance industry uses up to 3000 ingredients, predominantly synthetic, some 900 of which were identified as toxic. However, the industry is not required to disclose ingredients of fragrances and perfumes on their labels due to trade secrecy considerations. The FDA supports this non-disclosure on the grounds that "consumers are not adversely affected -- and should not be deprived of the enjoyment" of these products.
An analysis of six different mainstream perfumes by Scientific Instrument Services, released in November 1998, identified over 800 ingredients with distinctive patterns for each perfume. These ingredients include a wide range of volatile and semi-volatile organic chemicals which are thus a significant contributors to indoor air pollution.
On May 11, 1999, the California Environmental Health Network filed a Citizen Petition with the FDA requiring warning labels on all fragrances which are marketed without prior adequate safety testing. Additionally, the petition requested the FDA to take administrative action and declare
Calvin Klein’ Cosmetic Company "Eternity eau de parfume" as "misbranded." This petition has been supported and endorsed by the CPC. While Eternity perfume has been known since 1995 as toxic to the respiratory tract and nervous system, the petition was based on recent analysis of the perfume by two independent laboratories, Scientific Instruments Services and the cosmetic industry’s Research Institute of Fragrance Materials Laboratory. Of all 41 ingredients identified, no toxicity data are available on some, data on most are inadequate, and others are known to be toxic to the skin, mucous membranes, respiratory tract, and reproductive and nervous systems by routes including skin absorption and inhalation. Additionally,
two ingredients (phenylmethyl acetic acid ester and 2,6–bis (1,1–dimethylethyl) –4–methyl–phenol) were identified as carcinogens. The FDA has 180 days to respond to this petition. However, any positive response is most unlikely.
Neways International, a leading alternative safe consumer products company, has taken a precedential initiative in the area of fragrance safety. The few fragrances used in Neways personal care products contain less than 10 ingredients, most of which are natural. As importantly,
none of the few synthetics used are known to be toxic or carcinogenic. In the near future, these products will be labeled accordingly.
A wide range of personal care products including shampoos, hair conditioners, cleansers, lotions, and creams, besides household products such as soaps and cleaning products, contain surfactants or detergents such as ethoxylated alcohols, polysorbates, and laureths. These ingredients are generally contaminated with high concentrations of the highly volatile 1,4 – dioxane, which is both readily inhaled and absorbed through the skin.
The carcinogenicity of dioxane in rodents was first reported in 1965 and subsequently confirmed in other studies including by the National Cancer Institute in 1978; the predominant sites of cancer were nasal passages in rats and liver in mice. Epidemiological studies on dioxane-exposed furniture makers have reported suggestive evidence of excess nasal passage cancers. On the basis of such evidence, the Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that "the presence of 1,4 – dioxane, even as a trace contaminant, is a cause of concern." These
avoidable risks of cancer in numerous personal care, besides other consumer, products is inexcusable, particularly as the dioxane is readily removed from surfactants during their manufacture by a process known as "vacuum stripping."
Again, Neways now stands alone in certifying and labeling the surfactants in its personal care products as "dioxane-free," and thus sets an important precedent to the entire personal care products industry.
For safe products without controversial ingredients or carcinogens
For more information about Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, MD, visit www.preventcancer.com