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COSMETICS TO DYE FOR?

By Joan Lowy
Scripps Howard News Service
June 7, 2004

Cosmetics to dye for... Weak government oversight has allowed industry to market cosmetics and personal-care products with ingredients whose safety is unclear or which are known to pose health risks, said a report released Monday by health and environmental groups.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn't require safety data on ingredients used in beauty and personal-care products such as shampoos, cosmetics and hair dyes before they are put on the market, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group, the Breast Cancer Fund and other public-interest groups.

A self-policing industry committee, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, has tested some ingredients, but the testing is voluntary and controlled by manufacturers, the report said. Neither the FDA nor the industry safety panel has evaluated 89 percent of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal-care products for safety, the report said.

An examination of ingredients listed on the labels of 7,500 such products found that a third contain one or more ingredients classified by the government as possibly cancer-causing, the report said.

The FDA estimates there are about 25,000 personal-care products on the market.

Seventy-seven products examined in the report _ primarily hair dyes and shampoos _ contain ingredients classified as known or probable human carcinogens.

Some products contain ingredients that are considered safe in part because it is assumed they will not be easily absorbed through the skin, the report said. However, more than half of the products examined also contain "penetration enhancers" -- ingredients that can increase chemical penetration through the skin and into the bloodstream, the report said.

Fifty of the products that contain penetration enhancers also contain known or suspected human carcinogens, the report said.

Few individual ingredients pose excessive risks, but most people use many products in the course of a day, so it well may be that these risks are adding up, the report said.

A survey of 2,300 people conducted in conjunction with the report found that the average adult uses 10 personal-care products each day, exposing themselves to 146 chemical ingredients. Fully a quarter of all women and 1 of every 6 men use at least 15 products daily, the report said.

"Little research is available to document the safety or health risks of low-dose repeated exposures to chemical mixtures like those in personal-care products, but the absence of data should never be mistaken for proof of safety," the report warns.

"The more we study low dose exposures, the more we understand that they can cause adverse effects ranging from the subtle and reversible to effects that are more serious and permanent," the report said.

The Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association said in a press statement that the FDA has authority to remove unsafe products from the market and that an FDA regulation "requires manufacturers to substantiate the safety of cosmetic ingredients and products before they are marketed."

"If there is inadequate safety substantiation, the label must bear a prominent warning," the association said. "This regulation is a strong deterrent to the marketing of any cosmetic that has not been adequately substantiated for safety."

However, any safety testing and reporting by manufacturers to the FDA is completely voluntary, said Jane Houlihan, vice president of the Environmental Working Group.

"The problem with this regulatory system is that industry holds all the cards," Houlihan said. "They decide what 'safe' means. They decide what tests to do. If FDA believes a product is harming human health, they have to take legal action to get it off the market and there is a very high burden of proof."

Other report findings:

  • Nearly 10 percent of all moisturizers and 6 percent of all sunscreens contain alpha and beta hydroxy acids, which can increase the risk of skin cancer.

  • At least four ingredients known to interfere -- or suspected of interfering -- with fetal development and causing declines in sperm counts are used in nail-care products.

  • Petroleum jelly, which can contain impurities that are listed by California as carcinogens and have been linked to breast cancer, is used in 7 percent of personal-care products.

  • Fifty-four products contain ingredients that the industry safety panel recommends against using, including diaper creams with ingredients deemed unsafe for use in baby products.

  • RESOURCES:
    ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP REPORT
    SEARCHABLE PRODUCT GUIDE


    SHAMPOO YOU MAY WANT TO AVOID

    Based on an assessment of toxicity drawn from reviews by government agencies and the cosmetic industry, we find the following Shampoo may present the greatest potential risks to consumers:

    Product Name
    Safety Score
    (range: 0-10) 10 is of most concern
    Neutrogena T-Gel Shampoo, Stubborn Itch Control
    9.3
    Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
    9.1
    Nioxin Bionutrient Protectives Cleanser, for Chemically Enhanced Hair
    9.0
    American Crew Revitalizing Daily Moisture Shampoo, For Normal To Dry Hair
    9.0
    Artec Blondes
    8.9
    Neutrogena T-Gel Shampoo, Extra Strength
    8.9
    Neutrogena T-Gel Shampoo, Original
    8.9
    Umberto Giannini Sleek and Chic Straightening Shampoo
    8.9
    Redken Active Express Flash Wash, Fast-Drying Shampoo
    8.9
    Tibet Rebirth Volumizing Shampoo, Fine-Flyaway
    8.9

    SHAMPOO - BETTER CHOICES

    Based on the government and industry sources we have reviewed, these Shampoo contain less toxic ingredients.

    Product Name
    Safety Score
    (range: 0-10) 10 is of most concern
    Organic Hair Care, Fragrance-free Pure Earth Hair Wash
    2.3
    Organic Hair Care, Cool Mint Pure Earth Hair Wash
    2.6
    NuHair Volume Maximizing Shampoo, For Men and Women
    2.9
    Tom's of Maine Natural Baby Shampoo, Honeysuckle
    2.9
    Organic Hair Care, Lavender Garden Pure Earth Hair Wash
    3.4
    Burt's Bees Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar With Oat Protein and Pro Vitamin B5
    3.6
    Organic Hair Care, Left Coast Lemon Pure Earth Hair Wash
    3.6
    Organic Hair Care, Sultry Spice Pure Earth Hair Wash
    3.9
    Pure Baby Cradle Cap Care with Vitamins A & E, Sensitive Skin Formula
    4.6
    Burt's Bees Doctor Burt's Herbal Treatment Shampoo with Cedar Leaf & Juniper Oil
    4.7

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