Health fears over cosmetics

by MARTYN HALLE, Daily Mail

Women could be endangering the health of their unborn babies by using cosmetics and perfumes to look and smell good, according to new research.

Many of the products they use are thought to contain a range of chemicals which can interfere with the reproductive system and other vital organs.

The chemicals, known as phthalates and previously used in children's soft plastic toys, have been found in some make-up and toiletries.

Phthalates are used to soften plastics but were then found to affect the reproductive systems of animals. They have been banned on safety grounds from children's toys because of fears about the future fertility of children.

The European Commission acted after it was found that children were ingesting the chemical through sucking soft toys.

Now there are calls for action to take the chemicals out of cosmetics. It has been impossible to discover the full extent of the problem, but a number of manufacturers have admitted that phthalates are in their products. And the Department for Trade and Industry has confirmed it is carrying out a safety review.

Tests carried out by the U.S. Government's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention found high levels of phthalates in the urine of 300 adults. Scientists discovered particularly high concentrations in the urine of women.

The chemical is found in makeup, perfumes, shampoos, deodorants, sunscreens, nail varnishes and conditioners.

Dr David Santillo, an expert on phthalates at Exeter University, says: 'If they have been found in the urine that means they are present in the bloodstream and are capable of crossing the placenta to the womb and be absorbed by the unborn child.'

Environmental pressure group Greenpeace has called for a ban on phthalates in cosmetics to follow the ban on their use in toys.

They are also suspected of disrupting the development of the testicles, reducing sperm counts and damaging the liver and kidneys.

However, manufacturers of cosmetic products such as nail polish and deodorants are still allowed to use phthalates, as long as they label them as one of the ingredients.

More disturbingly, phthalates also appear in many leading brands of perfume, but the manufacturers are not obliged to list them among the ingredients.

Among the brands adding the chemical are Chanel, Max Factor and Calvin Klein's Obsession and Eternity. Phthalates are also in beauty products such as Oil Of Olay, No 7 and the Beauty Without Cruelty Range.

An U.S. environmental research body has issued a warning to women who are expecting a baby or planning a pregnancy to avoid contact with anything that contains a particular type of phthalate: dibutyl phthalate (DBP).

But cosmetics manufacturers insist their products are subject to stringent safety tests and claim that there is no evidence those containing the chemicals are a health hazard.

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