No European cosmetics concern over exposure to phthalates


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No European cosmetics concern over exposure to phthalates

Related tags Personal care products Cosmetics

After a US study claimed that if children are exposed to certain phthalates while still in the womb, it could increase their risk of developing asthma; experts in Europe have moved to reiterate the safety of cosmetics products in Europe.

Some phthalates may be found in personal care products so it is understandable that these reports may worry people or make them question the safety of these products.

However, the two phthalates under scrutiny in the study are banned from cosmetic products in Europe, and the Cosmetics, Toiletry & Perfumery Association, has reiterated product safety.


The study suggests that there may be a link between prenatal exposure to phthalates and an increased risk of asthma in children.  Of the different phthalates studied, the authors only claim that two, butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP) and di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP), may be associated with that increased risk.

“While the study is of scientific interest, it is important to note that these two ingredients are banned from use in cosmetic products in Europe,”​ says a CTPA statement.

“However, the authors state that no association was found between the prenatal exposure of several other phthalates and diagnosis of childhood asthma.”

This is also the first such study and the authors state that results would need to be replicated by further research before any firm conclusions can be made.

“Pregnant women should not worry about this potential association – no plausible biological mechanism has been put forward, and there is certainly no suggestion that phthalate exposure causes increased asthma risk,”​ adds Professor Andrew Bush, Professor of Paediatrics and Head of Section (Paediatrics) at Imperial College London.

Strict safety

Cosmetic products are subject to strict European laws that mean they are some of the most studied products on the market and go through numerous tests before they are deemed safe to go on sale. 

There is a legal requirement that they must undergo a very strict safety assessment by a qualified safety assessor, which covers the safety of the finished product, as well as all of the individual ingredients, how and where the product is to be used, by whom and how often.

There are many different types of phthalates that make up the ‘phthalates group’ of chemicals. Only those phthalates that are safe for use in cosmetics are allowed.

In Europe, the main phthalate which may be used in cosmetics and personal care products is diethyl phthalate (DEP), which has been assessed for safety in cosmetic products several times by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS).

The authors of the US study also note that no association was found between the prenatal exposure of DEP and an increase in asthma risk.

Related topics Regulation & Safety

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