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The Impact of Junk Science on R&D: A Review of the 'Dirty Dozen'
By: David C. Steinberg, Steinberg & Associates
Posted: September 29, 2010, from the October 2010 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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Fragrance or parfum on a cosmetic ingredient list, according to the report, usually represents a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. It continues: fragrance recipes are considered a trade secret, so companies are not required to disclose fragrance chemicals in the list of ingredients. Of the thousands of chemicals used in fragrances, most have not been tested for toxicity, alone or in combination. Many of these hidden ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergic attacks, migraines and chemical-induced nerve irritation in sensitive individuals. In laboratory experiments, individual fragrance ingredients have been associated with cancer and neurotoxicity. For example, one chemical of concern is dimethyl phthalate (pronounced thal-ate), or DEP. Widely used in cosmetics to make fragrances linger, DEP is suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption), causing reproductive and developmental problems. Health Canada recently announced regulations banning six phthalates in children’s toys, but DEP is still widely used in cosmetics.
Facts: As is generally known, besides perfumes, fragrances are used to mask odors or add scent to formulations. It is true that fragrances are complex mixtures. The latest International Fragrance Association (IFRA) survey11 found that 3,163 different fragrance components are used. In addition, it is true that the industry does not have to reveal fragrance components; in fact, if it were forced to, the industry would likely cease to exist. This is because fragrances cannot be patented, so the only way to protect the intellectual property is to maintain a trade secret status. This practice has been recognized throughout the world.
The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) is responsible for evaluating the safety of the ingredients used in fragrances, and members are required to abide by the group’s findings to ensure safety. Further, cosmetic companies test the safety of final formulations, which include fragrances, and this provides additional information regarding safety in an actual use setting. The FDA database currently lists 23,142 formulas as containing fragrances. Once again, the David Suzuki Foundation has confused chemicals, mistaking dimethyl phthalate for diethyl phthalate. Dimethyl phthalate is not used in fragrances. Diethyl phthalate is used in fragrances and has been found safe for this application by RIFM, CIR and the EU.12–14
According to the foundation, consumers should also look for ingredients ending in paraben, e.g., methylparaben. The report states: parabens are widely used in cosmetics as a preservative. They easily penetrate the skin and are suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption). There is some evidence that parabens mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. Some studies suggest a possible association between parabens and breast cancer.
Facts: The esters of parahydroxybenzoic acid are called parabens, and these are listed by the alcohol that is esterified to the acid. The safest and most commonly used esters include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben.15 Everything stated in the foundation’s report reflects Internet rumors and studies that have not been reproduced, or that are of little scientific value. For example, parabens have been accused of being endocrine disrupters but, being more than 100,000 times weaker than the endocrine disrupters found naturally in the human body, they do not cause any activity.16