New Product Tests Reveal Beauty Companies Are Removing Toxic Phthalates
San Francisco – Under pressure from consumer advocates and regulators, some leading beauty companies are using fewer toxic chemicals than they did a few years ago, according to new product tests released today by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
The tests, conducted in fall 2008, reveal that at least some segment of the beauty industry has made considerable progress in removing phthalates, a set of industrial chemicals linked to birth defects, asthma, early puberty and decreased sperm counts, according to animal and human studies. However, some companies continue to put high levels of phthalates into fragrance.
The tests follow up on the 2002 report “Not Too Pretty,” which revealed that 72 percent of popular cosmetic products tested – including shampoos, deodorants, fragrances and other products – contained phthalates.
In the original tests, 12 products contained more than one phthalate and five products contained very high levels of diethyl phthalate (DEP). For the new tests, an independent lab analyzed those same products still available on store shelves and found that:
• None of the products contained more than one phthalate. The fragrances, deodorants and hair sprays tested negative for dibutyl phthalate (DBP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and butylbenzyl phthalate (BBP).
• Some companies are still using high levels of diethyl phthalate (DEP), which recent human studies link to DNA damage in sperm and feminization of the male reproductive system. The five perfumes and colognes with the highest levels of DEP in 2002 all still showed more than 20,000 parts per million of that phthalate.
• Three of the fragrances – Charlie, Wind Song by Prince Matchibelli and White Diamonds Elizabeth Taylor – had higher levels of DEP in 2008 than they did in 2002. Charlie Cologne Spray, manufactured by Revlon, had more than twice as much DEP in 2008 as the same product had in 2002.
• Perfumes don’t need to contain phthalates. Poison perfume by Christian Dior – which in 2002 was the most contaminated product with four phthalates (DBP, DEHP, BBP and DEP) – had no detectable levels of phthalates in three of the four bottles tested in 2008, and low levels of DEP in the fourth bottle.
“After decades of irresponsible use of phthalates, some companies are finally getting the message that consumers don’t want to rub and spray these toxic chemicals on our bodies,” said Lisa Archer, National Coordinator of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “However, the problem is not solved. Some companies are still using high levels of phthalates, even though safer alternatives are available.”
Still, the analysis shows that some companies are making progress, which is due to sustained consumer pressure driven by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of health and environmental groups, as well as increasing regulatory action in the United States and abroad.
In 2003, the European Union banned two phthalates and more than 1,000 other toxic chemicals from personal care products. The California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005 required companies to notify the state if they are using certain phthalates in personal care products.
In 2007, Washington State banned phthalates from children’s products, including children’s personal care products. This year, the U.S. Congress banned several types of phthalates from children’s toys, and the ban was signed into law by President Bush.
However, it is still legal for most cosmetics sold in the United States to contain unlimited amounts of phthalates and other chemicals of concern.
"The lack of government regulation over the cosmetics industry, the evidence that companies are still using hazardous chemicals, and the increasing consumer demand for safer products indicate that now is the time for significant regulatory reform of the cosmetic industry,” Archer said.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a national coalition of non-profit health, environmental and women’s groups working to eliminate chemicals used in the cosmetics industry linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems. To download the new report, click here. Also see the 2002 report, “Not Too Pretty: Phthalates, Beauty Products and the FDA,” and the accompanying ad that ran in July 2002 in The New York Times.