For immediate release: September 26, 2018

New research reveals that leading brands of personal care products and perfumes contain many undisclosed hazardous fragrance chemicals

Toronto, Ont. – Product testing conducted by the U.S. based group Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) with participation from Environmental Defence and other U.S. groups and published today highlights the pressing problem of secrecy in fragrance chemical disclosure and the urgent need for reforming consumer product labelling rules.

The report titled Right to Know: Exposing Toxic Fragrance Chemicals in Beauty, Personal Care and Cleaning Products exposes the presence of harmful fragrance chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, reproductive harm, and respiratory toxicity that do not appear on product labels. The study tested 25 leading brands of perfumes, personal care and cleaning products most of which are also sold in Canada.

The worst offender is a hair care and relaxing kit marketed to children of colour called “Just for Me Shampoo” by Strength of Nature, which was found to contain 24 hazardous chemicals. Alarmingly, 17 of these chemicals were undisclosed on the product’s label.

Additionally, perfumes popular among teenagers including JLo Glow, Marc Jacobs Daisy, Taylor Swift Wonderstruck and Axe Phoenix Body Spray made the top offending list with 13 to 18 hazardous chemicals.

“Weak chemical and labelling regulations have created a wild west environment where companies have free rein to use harmful ingredients in their products,” says Muhannad Malas with Environmental Defence. “It is disturbing that companies target teenagers under the allure of celebrity endorsements or false marketing claims, while not disclosing publicly that these products contain over a dozen hazardous chemicals.”

The results also highlight a troubling finding that most of the hazardous chemicals detected are hidden in fragrance formulas that are exempted from disclosure on the product label under Canadian law. One in four ingredients (99 out of 338 ingredients) used in fragrance formulas in the products tested were hazardous.

“Our report revealed an astonishing ¾ of the chemicals detected that were linked to chronic health effects were fragrance chemicals that did not appear on the label,” said Janet Nudelman, Director of BCPP’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “The presence of secret chemicals linked to a broad array of health concerns should raise a red flag for consumers, given that most of us regularly pour, spray and rub a multitude of fragranced personal care products on our bodies every day.”

The study also tested seven cleaning products and revealed that similar trends of secrecy occur in these products where many hazardous ingredients may hide in undisclosed fragrance formulas.

In Canada, cleaning product manufacturers are not required by any law to disclose chemical ingredients. Personal care products, on the other hand, are required to present an ingredient label but are not required to disclose ingredients in the fragrance formula, which often contain dozens or hundreds of chemicals.

“In a world where skyrocketing chronic disease rates are largely driven by environmental exposure to harmful chemicals, the federal government needs to recognize that mandating transparency to help people avoid harmful chemicals is good for the public’s health and the economy,” says Malas. “The exemption of fragrance and cleaning products from full disclosure rules is an archaic practice. Today’s report makes clear that the $70 billion dollar fragrance industry cannot continue to be self-regulated.”

Read the Canadian media backgrounder here and the full report here.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Sarah Jamal, Environmental Defence, sjamal@environmentaldefence.ca, 416-323-9521 ext. 251

Erika Wilhelm, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, media@bcpp.org, 415-321-2920