Friday, March 28, 2008

The Green Guide

Drop Dead Gorgeous?

by Carmela M. Federico

Filed under: Cosmetics, Environmental health hazards, Personal care products, Fragrances

Independent laboratory testing found a class of chemicals known as phthalates in 52 of 72 (72%) of the tested personal care products, according to a report released in early July 2002. Nail polish, hairspray, perfumes, and deodorants were among the products tested.

Phthalates have been shown to cause birth defects and damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system in laboratory animals. A recent Center for Disease Control study found surprisingly high levels of phthalates in the population, particularly among reproductive-age women -- up to 20 times more than the average dose, with the highest measured levels above the current federal safety standard.

Perfumes -- including the mysterious "fragrance" ingredient listed on the labels of almost all personal care products -- are particularly prone to contain phthalates. This is particular troubling because, unfortunately, there is currently no way of knowing the ingredients that perfume products contain. Labels aren't required for perfumes, colognes, and other fragrance, and fragrance ingredients don't have to be tested before they are added to perfumes and used by the public. Kim Erickson notes in the recent book Drop-Dead Gorgeous that only thirteen perfume ingredients have been voluntarily tested by the fragrance industry, and none have been tested for their ability to cause cancer or disrupt hormone systems. The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials puts out an advisory list of ingredients that fragrance makers should avoid or use in small quantities, but compliance is entirely voluntary. A recent Environmental Working Group investigation found phthalates in every one of the 17 common perfumes it tested.Phthalates are not necessary to any of the products in which they are used. For each type of personal care item, phthalate-free products are available -- often produced by the same company that used phthalates in another brand.Go to the website to see if your product contains phthalates.

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