Many brand-name perfumes and colognes contain undisclosed chemicals not listed on the labels and substances that haven’t been assessed for safety by the beauty industry’s own review panels, according to a new study that suggests there could be a health cost to smelling nice.
The Toronto-based Environmental Defence teamed up with California’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to test 17 fragrances.
Of 91 ingredients identified by the laboratory tests or product labels, the study said that 19 have been reviewed by the Cosmetics Ingredient Review and 27 have been assessed by the International Fragrance Association and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials, which develop voluntary standards for chemicals used in fragrance.
The test results also show 38 “secret” chemicals not listed on labels in all 17 products assessed.
On average, each product contained 14 undisclosed compounds, with a number of the fragrances — including American Eagle Seventy Seven, Coco Mademoiselle Chanel, Britney Spears Curious, Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio, Old Spice After Hours body spray, Quicksilver and Calvin Klein Eternity for men — all exceeding the average.
The study chalks this up to a “loophole” in government regulations.
Under the Canadian cosmetic regulations, which took effect in 2004, all intentional non-fragrance ingredients must be listed on cosmetics and personal-care products, but companies are allowed to lump intentional fragrance ingredients under the generic term “parfum.”
But the study notes that some of these undisclosed chemicals are associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions.
Meanwhile, 10 of the undisclosed chemicals lack any toxicity information in published scientific literature, according to the report, which cross-referenced each chemical with the U.S. government’s “PubMed” database of published academic research.
And at least six of these undisclosed compounds have three or fewer published toxicity studies, or have been deemed by a government agency to be “completely lacking toxicity data for critical health risks of concern.”
“People using perfume, cologne, body spray and other scented cosmetics like lotion and aftershave are unknowingly exposed to chemicals that may increase their risk for certain health problems,” the report concludes.
A total of 12 different hormone-disrupting chemicals were found in the products — with an average of four in each product.
Halle by Halle Berry, Quicksilver and Glow by JLo each contained seven different hormone disrupting chemicals, including six that mimic estrogen and one chemical associated with thyroid effects, the report states.
Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, said the report shows the “system is broken and is putting Canadians’ health at risk.”
“Yet, the fix is simple,” he said “Canadians need to know what’s in the perfume they’re buying, be assured the perfumes are safety-tested and know that the most harmful chemicals are banned.”
Darren Praznik, president of the Canadian Cosmetics, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, says consumers can rest assured that all the products are safe and pose no health risk.
“These ingredients have a long history, they’ve been looked at regularly, they go through risk profiles, they are assessed, if required studied in greater depth to ensure that products are safe,” he said.
Praznik said the report ignores the science of risk assessment, which looks at both the hazard and exposure levels. Most of the undeclared chemicals cited in the report were found in such small levels that they’re considered “non-quantifiable,” said Praznik.
“If something is a hazard for which are you not getting an exposure, there is no risk.”
Praznik also said there’s a “very practical reason” for the fragrance labelling rules. Most perfumes have hundreds of components, many of which are added in such “infinitesimally small” amounts as to make any potential risk “not scientifically relevant.”