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Toxic Chemicals & Carcinogens in Cosmetics
The Danger of Toxic Consumer Products, Fragrances

Perfumes and fragrances are the single largest category of cosmetic and personal care products, especially hair, facial, and eye. These products represent nearly 50 percent of all prestige beauty dollars now spent in the US Fragrances are also extensively used in a wide range of everyday household cleaning products.

Exposure to toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products is predominantly through the skin. In contrast, exposure to toxic ingredients in household cleaning products is predominantly through inhalation.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has direct authority under the terms of the 1938 Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act to regulate toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. However, seven decades later, it has still failed to do so. Similarly, the Environmental Protection Agency has also still failed to regulate these toxic ingredients in household cleaning products.

In the disturbing absence of any federal regulations, the policies and practices of the cosmetics and personal care products industries are determined by its International Fragrance Association (IFRA). This is an international trade organization of over 100 perfume and fragrance manufacturers, representing 15 regions including the US, Europe, South America, Australia and the Far East.

The primary objectives of IFRA are to protect the self-regulatory practices and policies of the industry by the development of a Code of Practices and safety guidelines. However, these include maintaining the "trade secret" status of perfume and fragrance ingredients, and pre-empting international legislative labeling and safety initiatives.

Of the more than 5,000 ingredients used in the fragrance industry, approximately 1,300 have so far been evaluated by the industry's International Research Institute for Fragrance Materials. This Institute is a "non-profit" organization, created by IFRA in 1966 to conduct research and testing of fragrance ingredients. However, this testing is minimal and restricted to local effects on human skin, and short-term toxicity tests in rodents. Evaluation of ingredient safety is then made by an "independent" board of toxicologists, pharmacologists and dermatologists, without disclosure of their qualifications, let alone conflicts of interest. Their findings are presented to IFRA's Scientific Advisory Board, and then published in its trade journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology. The information reported in this journal is the basis on which IFRA formulates its own "safety guidelines." However, due to the "trade secret" status of fragrances, manufacturers are still not required by the FDA to disclose their ingredients on the label or in any other way.

These ingredients include a wide range of allergens. They also include synthetic musks, particularly tonalide and galaxolide, designed to mimic natural scents derived from musk deer and ox. They are persistent and bioaccumulate in the body, have toxic hormonal effects, and have been identified in breast milk.

In efforts at damage control, IFRA agreed that information on allergenic ingredients in perfumes like Eternity should be made available, but only on request from dermatologists, for diagnostic purposes. This "Fragrance On-Call List" action denies the public its right to know.

In 1973, in further efforts at damage control, IFRA created a Code of Practice listing prohibited ingredients, based on its own safety analyses. This listing has been subsequently periodically updated.

In May 1999, in response to repeated complaints of respiratory, neurological, and other toxic effects following the use of Calvin Klein's Eternity perfume, the Environmental Health Network of California hired two testing laboratories to identify the ingredients in the perfume. Analysis of these results by the Cancer Prevention Coalition, summarized in the author's 2009 Toxic Beauty book, reveal the following:

• 26 ingredients whose "Toxicological properties have not been investigated," or "toxicology properties have not been thoroughly investigated."

• 25 ingredients that are "Irritants."

• 5 ingredients that are "Skin sensitizers," or allergens.

• 3 ingredients that show "Fetal, hormonal, and reproductive toxicity."

• 2 ingredients that "May cause cancer."

More disturbingly, Dr. Vey, president of IFRA, failed to respond to repeated warnings from August to October 2003 from the Cancer Prevention Coalition. These urged "all fragrance products be labeled to the effect that, apart from the absence of known skin and respiratory allergens, they contain no known carcinogens, gene damaging, hormonal, or otherwise toxic ingredients."

As reported in "What's That Smell," a June 2010 report by Women's Voices of the Earth, faced with continuing criticism of unresponsiveness, IFRA initiated a "compliance program" in 2007. However, this is based on testing of a mere 50 fragranced products from the global market place to detect prohibited ingredients.

Clearly, IFRA is recklessly irresponsible. Also, clearly the public should be protected from further exposure to toxic ingredients in cleaning products, besides those in cosmetics and personal care products. These objectives would be implemented by passage of Senator Frank Lautenberg's Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, and Congressmen Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush's companion Act of April 2010. Both these Acts were based on the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. The new Acts require manufacturers to provide information on "chemicals of concern" in consumer products. This would also provide the public with information on the dangers of cosmetic and personal care products, especially as the FDA has recklessly failed to do so since passage of the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Click here to endorse these concerns.

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; Recipient of the 1998 Right Livelihood Award ("Alternative Nobel Prize") and the 2005 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medal for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention; Author of over 270 scientific articles and 20 books on the causes and prevention of cancer, including Toxic Beauty (BenBella Books, 2009) and Cancer-Gate: How To Win The Losing Cancer War (Baywood Publishing, 2005).


Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
Author of the 2009 Toxic Beauty, and the 2005 Cancer-Gate books
Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
Chicago, Illinois
Tel: 312-996-2297
http:\\ - to check what's in your products!
The Story Behind Cosmetics

On a recent trip overseas I was shocked to learn that the same exact brand of lotion I use everyday has a different ingredient list over in Europe. Not only different ingredients, but perhaps even safer ingredients. And it turns out, it's not just my lotion that may be safer in Europe. The same may be true for our shaving cream, toothpaste, deodorant -- even the toys that European children are playing with may be safer than those of their American counterparts.

The alarming reality is that 90% of the ingredients in our personal care products have never been evaluated for safety by the FDA or any other independent publicly accountable institution. The European Union has found 1,100 of these ingredients of such concern that they are banned from products sold in Europe.

If skin is our biggest organ, shouldn't we be more aware of what we feed it everyday?

We've often said that our bottled water documentary Tapped is really a microcosm for some of the much larger issues facing our country -- one of which being lack of regulation. We were stunned to find out that there is only one person at the FDA responsible for monitoring all the bottled water in the U.S -- and they only work on that part time. As it turns out, when it comes to our personal care products we'd be lucky to have even one person at the FDA regulating the chemicals found in our everyday products.

The way the Cosmetics/Personal Care industry works is so illogical that I'm going to break it down for you in the simplest of bullet points. Even then, I warn you, the logic is so asinine you will be inclined not to believe me - as such I'll include lots of links so you can see the source information for yourself.
The FDA is the agency in charge of regulating cosmetics (yes, it is the Food and Drug Administration and why it has authority over cosmetics is in itself asinine but we'll leave that discussion for another day).
With the exception of color additives the FDA has no authority to regulate cosmetic products or ingredients. Yes, you heard me correctly -- the agency in charge of regulating the cosmetics industry wasn't actually given the authority to do any regulating.
The cosmetic firms are responsible for making sure their products are safe for us. Again, no, your eyes are not playing tricks on you -- the firms that make the cosmetics (and the money off the cosmetics) are the same ones charged with determining their safety. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel -- a self-policing, voluntary "safety" panel -- was established in 1976 by the Cosmetics industry trade group in an effort to discourage legislation that would change the law and allow the FDA more authority over their product.

In the simplest of terms, the American regulatory system operates on an "innocent until proven guilty" model. We assume it's safe if the manufacturers tell us it's safe; and until enough scientists raise enough flags to demonstrate otherwise (as was the case most recently with Bisphenol A) then the product remains. The European Union, on the other hand, operates on a precautionary principle wherein it takes action on potential risks. As a result the EU has dwarfed the U.S. for the past 5 years in protecting its citizens by requiring a scientific review of all products "intended to be placed in contact with various parts of the human body." The result is a ban of 1,100 ingredients including any and all CMRs -- Carcinogens, Mutagens or Reproductive toxins.

To insure the same prohibitions enacted by the European Union didn't cross the pond, the cosmetics industry spent upwards of $600,000 lobbying against legislation in California that would require cosmetic companies to disclose the presence of ingredients that may cause cancer or birth defects. Proctor and Gamble alone spent $90,000 lobbying against the Safe Cosmetics Bill which wouldn't even prohibit the use of these chemicals, but merely require disclosing that they are in the product. The irony of all ironies is these very same cosmetic companies had already reformulated their products to comply with the EU which meant that the popular diaper rash cream you bought in California could still contain sodium borate, which has been linked to problems with testicular development, while the same brand in France could not.

It's easy to hear all of this and feel discouraged -- just more bad news about things that may kill us. Most people ask me, "well what can I do about it anyway?" While it's true that there seems to be a new boogeyman around every corner these days -- bottled water, cell phones, beef -- we are always presented with the same two options to any problem: we can do something or we can do nothing. Frankly I think doing anything, no matter how small a gesture, is better than doing nothing at all.
Support Senator Lautenberg's Safe Chemicals Act which would regulate toxic chemicals in the U.S. This bill would require manufacturers to provide information about the chemicals in our products rather than relying on the current innocent until proven guilty method.
Support the Environmental Working Group and other nonprofit groups that fill in the holes left by government. You can support them directly or we'll donate of every Tapped DVD sold if you enter the promotional code "Cosmetics" when you check out.
To find out what's lurking in your favorite products visit the EWG's Cosmetics Database -- the most comprehensive easy-to-use guide out there to determine how toxic your products may be for you (and your family).
The Good Guide is another great database that allows you to search for cosmetics as well as certain foods (great source for checking what's in your baby's food), household products and toys.
Forward the above Story Behind Cosmetics video to all your friends and help spread the word on how to buy better products.

For more information on the story of cosmetics please visit us at
The Story of Cosmetics[/URL]
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass

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