Cosmetics Full of Suspect Chemicals
Monday, August 12th 2002
Cosmetics ranging from perfume to hair gel contain chemicals shown to cause birth defects in animals, a group that lobbies on health issues said today.
It listed 52 different products that contain phthalates - chemicals that are used to soften plastics. Only one of the products listed phthalates on the labels.
Although there is no evidence showing that phthalates are harmful to humans, the group argues that they should be removed from cosmetics until they can be shown to be safe.
Health Care Without Harm, has been lobbying against phthalates for years. It cites tests that shows the chemicals can cause defects in animals, most often abnormalities of the male reproductive organs.
The group commissioned a lab to test 72 different products, including body lotions, nail polish and deodorants, for phthalates, and said 52 of them contained the chemical.
These products were marketed to women of reproductive age, they said, and could potentially hurt their babies.
"Phthalate-free products that perform as well are on the market for virtually every single phthalate-containing product," the group's spokesperson said.
However the American Chemistry Council denied the chemical can hurt people.
"Phthalates are among the most widely studied materials in the world and have been researched and tested for more than 50 years," a council statement said.
Source Waikato Times 11 July 2002
Footnote from Ideal Health:
Phthalates are a family of chemical compounds that have been developed in the last century. Although the various kinds of phthalates (pronounced THAL-aytes) in use today have a certain similarity of appearance and structure, phthalates perform many different tasks. There is no way to complete the sentence "phthalates are?"
Phthalates look like vegetable oil. They have little or no smell. Consumers never use them alone. They are incorporated into products that consumers use every day. About 80 percent of all the phthalates manufactured today are used as "plasticizers." That is, they make plastics flexible without sacrificing strength or durability.
Their chief use is as plasticizers in vinyl, a very familiar, popular and versatile form of plastic. Vinyl (also known as PVC, or polyvinyl chloride) is ordinarily hard. But when certain phthalates are added into the vinyl manufacturing process they act as a lubricant among the long vinyl molecules, permitting them to slip and slide against one another. The result: a technological marvel that helps make our lives better in numerous ways. From construction to toy-making to medical care, flexible vinyl has helped make products that are more durable, cleaner, clearer, and economical.
Not all phthalates are used as plasticizers for PVC. Different phthalates keep nail polish from chipping, make perfume linger longer, or make tool handles strong and more resistant to breaking. Others help adhesives, caulking, paint pigments and many other materials perform their jobs better.
Because phthalates are so widely used, they have undergone extensive testing for possible health effects on humans or damage to the environment. Some areas of concern have been identified, which are under intense study. But in sum, the record of phthalates is excellent. Phthalates do not persist in the environment; they biodegrade readily. If they make their way into the body, they do not accumulate in animals or humans; inside the body, they break down quickly and are excreted. Most important, in their long history of beneficial service to consumers, there has never been any scientifically validated evidence that they have ever caused anyone any harm.
At Ideal Health we prefer to take a no risk approach and suggest you treat any products that contain phthalates, as a potential health threat.
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