Antibacterial ingredients come under attack, again

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Personal care products, Cosmetics, Safe cosmetics

A recent scientific report claiming that an ingredient in personal
care products may alter hormone activity adds to the raging debate
over the dangers of synthetic chemicals.

Triclocarban (TCC) is an antimicrobial ingredient that is found in a limited number of personal care products such as antimicrobial soaps and deodorant products. The compound performs a similar function to triclosan, which appears much more extensively in personal care products and has similarly been tarred with the hormone altering brush. Scientists at the University of California tested the substance, which has received less attention than its more extensively used cousin, in both rats and human cells in the laboratory concluding that the compound affected the hormonal system. The researchers found that although TTC has little or no androgenic activity alone, but it can amplify native androgens, such as testosterone. In laboratory rats the researchers reported that animals given triclocarban supplement, testosterone dependent organs such as the prostate gland grew abnormally large. This study joins an increasing body of scientific literature documenting the effects of endocrine disruptors in animals. However, research into the compounds effect on humans, in particular if not ingested but topically applied, is lacking. Bill Lasley, one of the authors of the report says the amplificative effect "may eventually lead to an explanation for some rises in some previously described reproductive problems that have been difficult to understand",​ adding that more analyses on antibacterial ingredients and endocrine effects are planned. ​ The cosmetics and personal care industry has been dogged by a number of recent high profile cases concerning the safety of synthetic chemical ingredients. Most recently the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics raised the alarm over lead in lipstick and prompted several senators including former presidential candidate John Kerry to call for a full FDA investigation into the issue. Discussions at the Natural Beauty Summit earlier this month in Paris highlighted a division within the industry regarding safety issues, with consumer groups and natural cosmetic manufacturers leading the fight against so-called dangerous chemical ingredients while conventional producers, trade associations and often academics were defending current industry practice. Tony Gough, a member of the council of the British Society of Cosmetic Chemists told CosmeticsDesign.com that in his view the debate revolves around the distinction between risk and hazard. Is the amount of certain ingredients that are hazardous in high quantities sufficient to present a health risk to the consumer? Gough told CosmeticsDesign.com that health scares in the cosmetics industry are often ill-founded because they only show that a substance is hazardous and not that exposure is sufficient to pose a risk to consumer health.

Related topics: Formulation & Science, Skin Care

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