Report, PCPC sniff out truth on fragrances’ safety

WASHINGTON —A new report by activist group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics alleging that a number of popular brand-name perfumes and teen body sprays have “secret” chemicals that could be harmful to consumers is “erroneous” and “does a disservice to consumers,” stated John Bailey, chief scientist of the Personal Care Products Council, in response to the claim.

The report, titled “Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance,” was released on May 12 by the U.S.-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group.

An analysis of 17 fragranced products conducted at an independent laboratory allegedly found that, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, they contained “a dozen or more secret chemicals not listed on labels, multiple chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions or disrupt hormones, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety by the cosmetics industry’s self-policing review panels.”

“Something doesn’t smell right—clearly the system is broken,” stated Lisa Archer, national coordinator of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund. “We urgently need updated laws that require full disclosure of cosmetics ingredients so consumers can make informed choices about what they are being exposed to.”

Responding to the report, Bailey stated: “The validity of the report is seriously undermined by its failure to include quantitative measurements of the ‘secret’ ingredients it purported to find. Such measurements are a fundamental element of toxicological risk assessments. Without them, it is impossible to make valid judgments about potential risks.”

“The report also erroneously alleges that many of the materials ‘revealed’ in their testing have not been assessed for safety. In fact, most of the ingredients have been the subjects of a safety assessment by one or more authoritative bodies,” he continued.

“Usage standards for fragrance are set based on the recommendations of a scientific panel of toxicologists, dermatologists, pathologists and environmental scientists that is overseen by the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials, the research arm of the International Fragrance Association. The RIFM database contains a significant volume of information on fragrance materials,” he said.

With regard to the allegations of sensitization from fragrance ingredients, Bailey said that it has long been known that some people are sensitive to some natural or manmade materials in the environment. He also explained that because fragrance components are made up of so many substances, it is literally impossible to list them all on a product label. Given this, virtually all countries, including the European Union, allow fragrance ingredients to be declared on a label under the general term of “fragrance.”

With regard to the allegations in the report that some fragrance ingredients could be hormone disruptors, Bailey stated that this is “based on incomplete assessments of available scientific data about potential hormone effects and do not take into account actual exposure in cosmetic products. The studies relied upon in the allegations are not directly relevant to human exposure, and many of laboratory tests that have been done were completed under conditions that are not directly applicable to the use of these ingredients in cosmetic products. In some substances, the hormone effects measured are tens of thousands of times less than what would be expected to cause effects in humans. The weight of evidence in hormone disruption science today does not support the conclusions presented in this report.”

Bailey also stressed that cosmetic and personal care manufacturers take their safety requirements very seriously and that consumers can be confident in the safety of the products as cosmetic ingredients are carefully selected for safety and suitability for their specific applications.

Founded in 1894, the council has more than 600 member companies that manufacture, distribute and supply the vast majority of finished personal care products marketed in the United States.