From: Robina Suwol
Date: 03 Dec 2002
Remote Name: 220.127.116.11
U.S. COSMETICS PANEL ALLOWS USE OF DISPUTED CHEMICAL
By Laura MacInnis, Reuters,
November 20, 2002
Washington - Regulators from within the American cosmetics industry voted
Tuesday to allow the use of a chemical ingredient in perfumes and beauty
products which critics have linked to birth defects in animals.
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel ruled that three phthalates, chemicals used to make fragrances last longer, posed no health threat to cosmetics wearers.
Their decision angered health advocates who say phthalates, which can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, contribute to male birth defects and should be banned from beauty products sold to women.
"Despite the findings of this industry-funded panel, women want their cosmetics to be free of products that cause birth defects," said
Charlotte Brody, executive director of Health Care Without Harm, a coalition of health, religious, labor, and environmental groups.
Brody said cosmetics regulators had brushed aside tests linking the chemicals to birth defects in animals, most often abnormalities of the male reproductive organs, and had done little to address potential cumulative risks to women exposed to more than one source of phthalates.
"They have made this decision without knowing what a safe dose might be and without knowing the full range of products phthalates are used in," she told reporters. "Scientists have not yet determined a dose of phthalates not linked to male birth defects."
Gerald McEwen, vice president for science of the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, said the panel's decision was based on a comprehensive review of scientific studies, including those cited by health campaigners. "Based on the science, there is no health concern here," McEwen said. "There is no reason for people to get upset. The response we've seen, I'd say it was alarmist, and that's too bad."
Beauty products such as perfume, deodorant, hair spray, skin cream, and nail varnish often contain phthalates. The chemicals are also found in plastic products such as food containers, medical devices, and food wrap.
Phthalates are rarely included in the ingredient list of beauty products because they are among hundreds of components which are
grouped together under the name "perfume." Critics say that makes it difficult for consumers to avoid the chemicals. "Even if you are the kind of consumer who reads every label in the store before you buy it, you can't find out if there are phthalates in there," Brody said.
Industry leaders said perfumes have up to 600 ingredients, making it impossible to list them all on packaging. McEwen said concerned consumers should call manufacturer to check whether phthalates are included. Some cosmetics companies have voluntarily withheld phthalates from their products pending further research.
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