Top perfumes linked to cancer scare chemical

London Times 11/24/02: Lois Rogers

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SCIENTISTS have found high levels of a chemical blamed for causing infertility in some of the best-known perfumes and cosmetics.

Chanel No 5, Christian Dior’s Poison, Eternity from Calvin Klein, and Trésor by Lancôme, were among 34 toiletries found by a Swedish study to contain di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) or other phthalates.

The European commission is proposing a ban on the use in cosmetics of two of the most potent forms of phthalates amid fears they are responsible for genital abnormalities affecting up to 4% of male babies.

These genital abnormalities — which can include undescended testicles and malformation of the urinary tract — are blamed for soaring levels of testicular cancer in young men. Cases of the disease have risen tenfold in the past century. About 1,900 British males, some as young as 15, are diagnosed every year. Nine out of 10 cases are cured, but doctors are worried by the trend.

Scientists believe the phthalates could be absorbed into women’s bloodstreams through the skin or inhalation.

The Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association condemned the report as inaccurate and misleading.

It said: “Consumer safety is the first priority for the cosmetic industry and consumers can have complete confidence in the cosmetic products they use and in the regulatory framework which ensures cosmetic safety.”

Numerous studies on rats and mice have shown phthalate exposure causes genital abnormality. US research published two years ago, showed that by-products of phthalates were found in the urine of women aged 20 to 40 at levels many times higher than men.

The latest research was conducted by a Swedish government-accredited laboratory for Healthcare Without Harm, an American-based organisation representing 300 consumer pressure groups around the world.

Researchers at the Analycen laboratory analysed 34 leading brands of cosmetics and found more than three-quarters contained phthalates. The chemicals are used as emulsifiers to help prevent loss of fragrance.

Among the products tested were hair mousse and hair spray from the Boots Essentials range. Boots has denied that one of the phthalates found is used in its manufacturing process, but said: “We are investigating this reported presence, and if confirmed we will take all necessary steps to remove it.”

A spokesman said the company was confident DEHP was not used in the making of products stocked by Boots.

However, the investigation found other forms of the chemical in Tommy Girl perfume, Impulse Body Spray, Nivea Deo Compact, Sure Ultra deodorant, Shockwaves hair mousse and four hairsprays, including Elnett Satin, Pantene Pro-V extra hold and Vidal Sassoon.

Professor Richard Sharpe of the Medical Research Council’s Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh said: “If you wanted to produce a list of environmental causes of the reproductive health problems in boys, phthalates would be pretty near the top of the list.”

Julia Sawalha, who played Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous, supports the Women’s Environmental Network, a backer of the Swedish research. “Chemicals that pose a risk to fertility do not belong in cosmetics, and manufacturers should be made to list ingredients,” she said.


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