Report: Perfumes' Chemical Safety Unknown

Posted on May 12, 2010 @ 07:43 am

Top-selling fragrances contain chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions or disrupt hormones but are not listed on labels, according to report released Wednesday by Environmental Defence in Canada and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in the U.S. The report assessed 17 fragrances bought in both countries that were tested by an independent laboratory in California. They included Britney Spears' Curious, Calvin Klein Eternity, Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce and Old Spice body spray.

The tests found a dozen or more chemicals not listed on labels, multiple chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions or disrupt hormones, and substances that have not been assessed for safety by the beauty industry's self-policing review panels, the groups said.

"Clearly, the system is broken and is putting Canadians' health at risk," Rick Smith, the executive director of Environmental Defence, said in a release.

"Yet, the fix is simple: Canadians need to know what's in the perfume they're buying, be assured the perfumes are safety-tested, and know that the most harmful chemicals are banned. It's up to our federal government to make sure that laws concerning these products are protecting Canadians' health."

The findings in the report included:

* An average of 10 sensitizing chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions such as headaches, wheezing, asthma, infant diarrhea and vomiting and reduced pulmonary function, were found in each product.
* An average of four hormone-disrupting chemicals were found in each product. The chemicals may mimic the hormone estrogen.

Of the 91 ingredients identified in the study by lab tests or product labels, 19 ingredients have been reviewed by the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review, and 27 were assessed by groups that develop voluntary standards for chemicals used in fragrance.

Darren Praznik, president and CEO of the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, said federal regulations do not require manufacturers to include ingredients on labels that are detectable but "not quantified" because the amounts used are infinitesimally small.

Praznik also argued against the notion that federal laws regarding cosmetics are too lax, adding that the association representing the country's personal-care product industry will provide a copy of the report to Health Canada to see "if there's anything new in it."

"What's interesting to note on the Canadian version (of the report), they clearly said none of the ingredients they've identified are on the (Canadian Cosmetic Ingredient) Hotlist of restricted or prohibited ingredients maintained by Health Canada," Praznik told The Canadian Press.

"They are trying to create a public concern that science will not support."