While several brands continue to use chemicals that consumer and health advocates say are too risky, some leading beauty companies have are using fewer controversial chemicals, according to a new report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
The group's testing focused on phthalates, a chemical commonly used in fragrances and usually unreported on ingredient lists that some studies have associated with a range of health problems, from asthma to reproductive and developmental problems.
Here's a look at some of the information from the report, as stated by the group:
"The tests follow up on the 2002 report 'Not Too Pretty,' which revealed that 72% 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 Matchabelli and White Diamonds by 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 dont 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.
Two phthalates are banned in Europe, California requires the reporting of the use of phthalates in personal care products and phthalates will soon be banned in U.S. children's products. There are no limits on use of phthalates in cosmetics or personal care products, however.
Some advocates and scientists in the U.K. are calling for new Europe-wide labeling system to warn pregnant women against using certain personal care products, like hairspray and some cosmetics, because of a perceived risk to their unborn children.
A separate study recently found that adolescent girls in the United States have 16 different chemicals from four chemical classes in their blood and urine that might disrupt the normal functioning of their hormonal systems.
These endocrine disruptors phthalates, triclosan, parabens and musks are associated with cosmetics and body care products, which teen girls use in higher doses than other segments of the population, according to the Environmental Working Group, which conducted study. Further, because young women are going through rapid development, their long-term health, particularly their reproductive health, could be at risk.
The health risks of the chemicals are not definitively understood, but each has been the target of efforts by consumer, health and environmental advocates who view independent scientific findings as justification for limiting or eliminating exposure.
Because these chemicals mimic hormones, they may cause effects at very low levels, just as hormones act naturally as chemical messengers to cause changes in the body at low concentrations.
The 20 teens tested a small sample that can only raise more questions, rather than definitively describe exposure rates used an average of more than 16 personal care products daily.
Finding cosmetics and personal care products free of suspect ingredients is notoriously difficult. Labels are often misleading, ingredients are listed with confusing alternative descriptions or not at all, and many terms like "natural" or even "organic" commonly found on labels are unregulated.
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