Christian Dior's Poison, Arrid Extra Extra Dry deodorant and Aqua Net Hair Spray are among many of the beauty and personal care products that contain one or more of the dangerous chemicals known as phthalates, according to Not Too Pretty, a report released by the Environmental Working Group, Coming Clean and Health Care without Harm.
The groups contracted with a major national laboratory to test 72 name-brand, off-the-shelf beauty products for the presence of phthalates, a large family of industrial chemicals linked to birth defects in the male reproductive system. The lab found phthalates in 52 of the 72 products tested - or 72%. Only one of the products listed phthalates on the label.
"Chemicals that can damage the development and future fertility of babies don't belong in products marketed to women," said Bryony Schwan, coordinator of the Coming Clean campaign. "Phthalate-free products that perform as well are on the market for virtually every single phthalate-containing product."
The Centers for Disease Control has found surprisingly high levels of these chemicals in urine taken from women of childbearing age. This report focuses on one source of exposure: the cosmetics and beauty products women are using every day.
The products were chosen after reviewing a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) database of cosmetics that listed the phthalate DBP (dibutyl phthalate) as an ingredient. The products were tested for the presence of six other common phthalates as well. The products listed below contained one of the phthalates, while those noted with an asterisk contained more than one phthalate. The lab found more than one phthalate in 11 products.
"The testing done for Not Too Pretty covers less than one percent of the beauty products sold in drug and discount stores across the United States, but it appears to be the most comprehensive testing ever made available to American consumers," said Charlotte Brody RN, executive director, Health Care Without Harm. "Because of lax FDA labeling rules, we cannot know how many more beauty products contain unlabeled quantities of phthalates."
A new report by Health Care Without Harm, "Aggregate Exposures to Phthalates in Humans," describes the failure of US and EU regulators to address the health impacts of multiple exposures to phthalates from a variety of products.
"We can't protect ourselves unless we get manufacturers and the government to change," Brody said. "The FDA and the cosmetic industry need to stop pretending that we are being exposed to one chemical from one source at a time. We need public policies that recognize how, in the real world, exposures from many products may be adding up to harm."
Hundreds of animal studies have demonstrated that phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system, especially the developing testes. Phthalates are used as a plastic softener and solvent in many different consumer products. They can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled as fumes, ingested when they contaminate food or when children bite or suck on toys, and are inadvertently directly administered to patients from PVC (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl) medical devices.
According to one CDC study, five percent of women of reproductive age (an estimated two million women) may be getting up to 20 times more of the phthalate DBP than the average person in the population. The highest exposures for women of childbearing age were above the federal safety standard, creating a risk of reproductive birth defects, according to animal studies considered relevant to humans. The limited testing done for Not Too Pretty revealed that the same big companies that produce phthalate-laden beauty products also make products free of phthalates. For example:
NEW REPORT HIGHLIGHTS HEALTH RISKS OF PHTHALATES IN CONSUMER PRODUCTS
-- Product Tests Find Unlabelled Toxin in Many Best Selling Cosmetics --
New test results showing harmful phthalates in hair sprays, perfumes, and other brand-name cosmetics will be released by Coming Clean, the Environmental Working Group and Health Care Without Harm. The Centers for Disease Control has found surprisingly high levels of these chemicals in urine taken from women of childbearing age. This report will show one source of exposure: the products women are using on their bodies.
Tests from an independent laboratory found phthalates in a variety of top-selling cosmetics. An advertising campaign informing consumers of these test results will begin when the report is released. Copies of the ads, which list name-brand cosmetics containing phthalates, will be available at the press event.
Hundreds of animal studies have demonstrated that phthalates can damage the liver, the kidneys, the lungs and the reproductive system, especially the developing testes. From the time we pull back the vinyl shower curtain in the morning to the products we use to get ready for a night out, we are exposed to phthalates, which are needlessly added to dozens of consumer products, such as car seats, hair spray, IV bags, deodorant, nail polish, wallpaper and siding.
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel, an industry-funded panel of physicians and scientists responsible for assessing the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics, met recently and decided to launch a new scientific review of the safety of phthalates in cosmetics. But immediate steps are necessary to protect consumers from phthalates. Despite warnings from the National Institutes of Health and Health Canada about the harmful effects of phthalates, the FDA has failed to require companies to remove this needless toxin, and has failed to notify consumers about the presence of phthalates in our food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices through labeling requirements.
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