French parliament voted through the first reading to ban the plasticizers by centre-right Nouveau Centre grouping, which is led by former defence minister Hervé Morin, despite opposition by President Sarkozy’s UMP and the government.
The French National Assembly vote to ban phthalate chemicals was based on their endocrine disrupting properties which are mainly used as plasticizers to enhance flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity of plastics and parabens which are a class of chemicals widely used as preservatives in cosmetics formulations.
When the bill was first proposed Health Minister Xavier Bertrand suggested waiting until next year for the new scientific test results, before making a decision.
Not certain to become law
The proposal, which was passed by 236 votes to 222 was greeted well in parliament although it is not certain to become law as the government is not bound to pass it to the Senat, France's upper parliamentary house for further consideration.
Environmental campaigners have also cheered the vote, with researcher André Cicolella telling French daily Le Parisien: "It's an excellent decision and shows MPs have been conscious of the importance of the situation and resisted the chemical lobby."
Phthalates are chemical compounds used in plastic wrapping, adhesives, paints, and cosmetics products like nail varnishes, hair lacquer and perfume.
The problem arises as the plastics break down and get released in the atmosphere, with various tests in the US detecting phthalates in the human bloodstream.
The problem here is that they are hormone-disrupting chemicals related to obesity and also act as estrogen-mimicking substances hence affecting male reproductive process.
As they are common ingredients in personal care products and plastics applications the French parliament took the decision to investigate their use.
Parabens – safe or dangerous?
Parabens are preservatives used in many types of formulas and cosmetic applications such as shampoos, commercial moisturisers, shaving gels, rub-on gels and toothpaste, and according to a study carried out by the University of Reading, are associated to breast cancer and thought to mimic oestrogen.
According to reports in French-English Newspaper The Connexion various cosmetics companies have voluntarily withdrawn the use of the chemicals in question from their products.
In Denmark, the use of parabens has been banned from use in children’s personal care products.
However, last year The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) released its opinion on the use of parabens as preservatives in cosmetics products, stating they are safe to use as cosmetics preservatives although use levels for some of the compounds in the family should be reduced.