Phthalates in Cosmetic Products

Recently, a certain group of toxins has been under a lot of scrutiny lately. They’re called phthalates and they’re in many consumer products. But what are these chemicals with the hard-to-pronounce name, and what effect, if any, do they have on our health?

Phthalates (pronounced thal-eyts) are a class of chemicals used as plasticizers and solvents. These chemicals are found in many consumer products, including shampoos, fragrances and cosmetics. Some of their common acronyms are DBP, DMP, and DEP. In 2001, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a survey of a small segment of the U.S. Population and did find phthalates in its urine. But the CDC did not make a connection between the presence of phthalates in the urine and disease.

Another study in 2002 conducted by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), found that phthalates were safe as used in cosmetic products. It should be noted that the CIR is an industry-sponsored organization. The FDA participates in CIR on a non-voting basis, and may or may not accept CIR findings. After reviewing these studies from 2001 and 2002, the FDA determined there wasn’t enough scientific evidence to initiate regulating phthalates in cosmetics.

But the FDA has continued to monitor phthalates in cosmetic products by conducting surveys of products in the market. The FDA published their results of three surveys, one from 2004, a second one in 2006, and a third in 2010. What they found was that the use of phthalates has declined significantly between 2004 and 2010.

On their web site, the FDA states that at present, they do not have evidence that phthalates in cosmetics pose a safety risk. But that could change. So, if you’re currently making a cosmetic product with phthalates, now might be a good time to reformulate. Consumers, regulators and the industry are looking more closely at phthalates than ever before. For updates, you can check the FDA web site here:

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