Beauty companies working to remove possibly harmful chemicals from products

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. Recent tests have revealed that beauty companies are making progress in removing phthalates from products, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of environmental and women’s groups.

The chemicals, known as phthalates, are used in many everyday beauty and personal care products and have sparked some concern among several advocacy groups, health experts and policymakers who have called for the removal of such chemicals. Some research has shown that phthalates may be linked to asthma, birth defects, early puberty and decreased sperm counts.

According to the coalition, a new round of tests, conducted in fall 2008, reveal that at least some segment of the beauty industry has made progress in removing phthalates.

The tests follow up on a 2002 report, titled “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 were shown to contain 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 and nine of those products had reduced or eliminated phthalates.

The non-profit group did note that some companies continue to put high levels of the chemicals into fragrance.

“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.”

Industry members and federal officials, however, have stated that the risk to humans is low, if not null.

Research by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, established by the Personal Care Products Council (formerly known as the CTFA), has found that phthalates as used in cosmetics are safe.

The PCPC has further stated that government data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrate that human exposure levels to phthalates are far below minimum safety levels set by regulatory agencies.

Even if there is exposure, phthalates break down quickly and are excreted.

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