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Trade association hits back at ‘secret chemicals in fragrance’ report

By Katie Nichol , 12-May-2010
Last updated on 12-May-2010 at 17:00 GMT2010-05-12T17:00:54Z

US-based trade association, the Personal Care Products Council, has slammed a report that claims many popular, brand name fragrances contain ‘secret’ ingredients that may be harmful to consumers.

‘Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance’ was released by the US-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Environmental Group and the Canada-based Environmental Defence.

According to the campaign, an independent lab test carried out on 17 products showed them to contain hormone-disrupting and sensitizing chemicals as well as chemicals not listed on product labels.

‘Misrepresenting the science on fragrance ingredients’

Chief Scientist at the Personal Care Products Council, John Bailey, issued a statement denouncing the report, claiming it ‘grossly misrepresents the science on fragrance ingredients and presents a distorted picture of how they are regulated and labeled’.

Bailey also stated that the report does a disservice to consumers looking for accurate and reliable information and advice about the products they purchase.

Clandestine compounds

According to the report, on average, 14 ‘clandestine compounds’ (those not listed on product labels) were found in the fragrances tested.

However, as fragrance components are made up of several substances, said Bailey, it is impossible to list them on a product label. Furthermore, a full list would be meaningless to consumers, he added.

The vast majority of countries, including those in the EU, allow fragrance ingredients to be declared under the general term of ‘fragrance’ on product labels.

Bailey also said that failure to include quantitative measurements of these secret ingredients ‘seriously undermined’ the validity of the report.

“Such measurements are a fundamental element of toxicological risk assessments. Without them, it is impossible to make valid judgments about potential risks,” he stated.

Sensitizers and hormone-disruptors

The report alleged that the fragrances contained some sensitizing chemicals linked to allergic reactions and hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to negative health effects.

Bailey said that while some substances used in fragrance may be identified as sensitizing agents, manufacturers formulate in such a way that decreases the risk of sensitization and allergic reactions.

“Many of these substances have been used for decades, and much is known about them. The actual occurrence of of sensitization in the marketplace is quite low,” he said.

Bailey also questioned allegations about the use of hormone-disrupting chemicals, saying these are ‘based on incomplete assessment of available scientific data […] and don’t take into account actual exposure in cosmetics products.’

He sought to reassure consumers about the contents of such products, saying: “cosmetics ingredients are carefully selected for safety and suitability for their specific applications, and consumers can be confident in the safety of their products.”

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