Personal Care and Services

Published on July 21st, 2010 | by Jennifer Lance


Cancer Prevention Coalition: Perfumes Contain Toxic Ingredients

Beyond being annoyed by the overpowering use of fragrances by department stores, magazine, and individual, there is real cause for concern about the safety of perfumes.  In fact, the Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC) has issued a warning that public is at risk from the federal government’s lack of regulation and the fragrance industry’s “recklessly irresponsible” behavior.

Photo by Stepheye
Perfumes contain toxic ingredients

Perfumes contain toxic ingredients

Chaired by founder Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., the CPC is non-profit organization consisting of “a unique nationwide coalition of leading independent experts in cancer prevention and public health, together with citizen activists and representatives of organized labor, public interest, environmental, and women’s health groups”.  Educating consumers about “avoidable exposures” to carcinogens is one of the groups goals.  Perfume has been identified as a real cause for concern:

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has reported that the fragrance industry uses up to 3000 ingredients, predominantly synthetic, some 900 of which were identified as toxic. However, the industry is not required to disclose ingredients of fragrances and perfumes on their labels due to trade secrecy considerations. The FDA supports this non-disclosure on the grounds that “consumers are not adversely affected — and should not be deprived of the enjoyment” of these products.

The 1938 Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power “to regulate toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products;” however, the agency has relied on the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) to establish regulations.  The IFRA calls the CPC statements “misleading”.

It is easy to make claims about chemicals being ‘linked’ to diseases. All this tells us that a chemical was present when an effect occurred, rather than showing that the chemical causes the effect. This is true for all chemicals, whether naturally occurring or synthesized.

There are many cases of ‘links’ because pathologists record things like the presence of a chemical during an autopsy. Such ‘links’ are usually of no consequence. The press release from Dr Epstein uses the telling phrase ‘may cause cancer’. This is typical activist scaremongering as there is no actual proven causal link between the use of fragrance ingredients and cancer.

Concern of toxic chemicals in fragrances is not new. Over a decade ago, the Environmental Health Network of California evaluated Calvin Klein’s Eternity and discovered:

  • 26 ingredients whose “Toxicological properties have not been investigated,” or “toxicology properties have not been thoroughly investigated.”
  • 25 ingredients that are “Irritants.”
  • 5 ingredients that are “Skin sensitizers,” or allergens.
  • 3 ingredients that show “Fetal, hormonal, and reproductive toxicity.”
  • 2 ingredients that “May cause cancer.”

Toxic ingredients from perfumes are absorbed directly in to the body through the skin.  If you are looking for a safer alternative for fragrance, try natural essential oils.  They are less expensive than perfumes and you don’t have to worry about mystery ingredients.

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