Toxic News: Fume in Perfume?

THEY’RE the world’s most popular [tag]Christmas[/tag] gifts, with global surveys predicting festive season sales of [tag]perfumes[/tag] and cosmetics likely to rise by more than 20 per cent this year. That’s a handsome profit for a global industry worth $255billion. [tag]Australian[/tag] [tag]men[/tag] now spend $488million on personal [tag]grooming[/tag] products, with [tag]women[/tag] spending more than double that amount on a battery of cosmetics, perfumes, hair care, manicure and tanning products.But there’s a battle being waged over the environmental and health impacts of synthetic chemicals used in beauty products and toiletries. Scientists, health lobbyists and environmental campaigners argue that the cosmetics industry is among the world’s least regulated, using thousands of chemicals that have not been subject to adequate assessment.

In the United States, studies by the Environment Protection Authority have linked endocrine disrupters used in toiletries and household cleaners to hormone disruption in wildlife, possibly caused by water pollution from urban wastewater.

A recent report by global lobby group Health Care Without Harm and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation tested 34 leading-brand cosmetics for phthalates synthetic chemicals linked to decreased fertility and reproductive defects and now one of the most abundant industrial pollutants in the environment.

Laboratory tests confirmed the chemicals were used in 80 per cent of products, with more than 50 per cent containing more than one type of phthalate. According to the report, “none of the products listed phthalates as an ingredient on the label”.

When Hollywood actress Jennifer Lopez launched her first perfume, Glow by J.Lo in 2002, with its bling-bedecked pale pink bottle, she claimed she wanted a fragrance “that feels like you just came out of the shower”. It broke all global sales records for perfumes (the Lopez fragrance empire is now worth more than $US500million) and its success was swiftly followed by body lotions and bronzers. A “younger, hotter little sister” called Miami Glow was launched described as “a blend of pink grapefruit, coconut water, cyclamen and vanilla orchid” which added up to “an irresistible combination for the girl who is extroverted and loves to celebrate.”

But a laboratory analysis and consumer safety report by the United States Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep personal product care safety guide is more prosaic. The Miami Glow “natural spray” has 23 ingredients, nine of which raise health concerns, four are subject to restrictions and warnings regarding their use and 16 have not been risk assessed by the cosmetics industry. Out of a potential score of five, Miami Glow is rated as 4.1 a red-card ranking, indicating a “product of higher concern”. One ingredient (coumarin a chemical compound used in artificial vanilla substitutes) is described as “thought to possibly cause cancer in humans”, pose potential gastrointestinal, liver, cardiovascular and blood toxicity hazards and has “potential for reduced fertility or reduced chance for a healthy, full-term pregnancy .” Another ingredient (Ethylparabenan used to inhibit microbial growth and to extend shelf life of products) is listed as “posing potential breast cancer risks”.

Skin Deep’s colour-coded scale of assessment (green, amber, red) rates Chihuahua-toting heiress [tag]Paris Hilton[/tag]‘s perfume at the green end (lowest concern), scoring a consumer safety score of 1.2 and containing no ingredients listed as cancer hazards, irritants or endocrine disrupters.
[tag]Calvin Klein[/tag] has 13 products ranked in the red zone, and even a genteel-appeal brand like Britain’s [tag]Crabtree and Evelyn[/tag] scored four red-zoners, including their Gardeners’ Hand Therapy, which apparently has 15 ingredients that raise health concerns, according to the Skin Deep test criteria.

Aveda, a company that claims to use only “pure botanicals” in its hair care products, has four red-raters (out of a total of 109 products assessed) with five ingredients in its popular Sap Moss conditioner rated as posing potential breast cancer risks. However, their Rosemary Mint shampoo gets a green rating , with only three out of 15 of its ingredients (camphor, benzoic acid and glycerin) raising minor health concerns over potential allergies…

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