15 April 2009
This article written by Dan Shapley appeared on The Daily Green website and takes extracts from an article written in the ILondon Independant newspaper. It discusses the concerns about recent findings that certain personal care products are affecting unborn children.
Some advocates and scientists in the U.K. are calling for new Europe-wide labeling systems to warn pregnant women against using certain personal care products, like hairspray and some cosmetics, because of a perceived risk to their unborn children, according to the London Independent.
According to the Independent:
“The move follows the publication of a study which found that women exposed to high levels of hairspray during pregnancy were twice as likely to have babies born with hypospadias, a condition in which the urinary tract grows on the underside of the penis. The Imperial College London study suggested that the birth defects were linked to chemicals in hairspray shown to disrupt the hormonal systems in the body and affect reproductive development.
“Fears over the effects of chemicals such as parabens, commonly used in cosmetics as a preservative, and phthalates, used in hairspray, have led to calls for closer monitoring of cosmetics. High levels of phthalates, also used to soften plastics such as PVC, have been found to affect hormone levels, while parabens have been the subject of concern since 2004, when a study claimed to have detected paragons from deodorants in cancerous breast tissue.
“The French health minister Roselyne Bachelot sparked debate last week by announcing that the French health authorities were considering a labelling system for cosmetics that would indicate whether or not products were safe for pregnant women. But the UK government said that the EU should address the issue as a whole, adding it to a range of changes currently being made to the European Cosmetics Directive.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR) said: “BERR does not think this is something which is suitable for individual countries to take forward unilaterally and hope that the French raise this during the current negotiations on the revision of the cosmetics directive, where a discussion can take place among experts on cosmetic products”.
A separate study recently found that adolescent girls in the United States have 16 different chemicals from four chemical classes in their blood and urine that might disrupt the normal functioning of their hormonal systems.
These endocrine disruptors — phthalates, triclosan, parabens and musks — are associated with cosmetics and body care products, which teen girls use in higher doses than other segments of the population, according to the Environmental Working Group, which conducted study.
Further, because young women are going through rapid development, their longterm health, particularly their reproductive health, could be at risk.
The health risks of the chemicals is not definitively understood, but each has been the target of efforts by consumer, health and environmental advocates who view independent scientific findings as justification for limiting or eliminating exposure.
Because these chemicals mimic hormones, they may cause effects at very low levels, just as hormones act naturally as chemical messengers to cause changes in the body at low concentrations.
The 20 teens tested — a small sample that can only raise more questions, rather than definitively describe exposure rates — used an average of more than 16 personal care products daily.
Finding cosmetics and personal care products free of suspect ingredients is notoriously difficult. Labels are often misleading, ingredients are listed with confusing alternative descriptions or not at all, and many terms — like natural or even organic — commonly found on labels are unregulated.