Statement by Linda Loretz, PhD, Chief Toxicologist, Personal Care Products Council, In Response to Study on Reduced Ingredient Levels and Personal Care Products
“A recent study from the University of California at Berkeley, California Department of Public Health and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas measured levels of various ingredients — phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and oxybenzone — in 100 Latina teens claiming that levels were reduced when the girls stopped using products containing those ingredients.
“The study identified nothing new. The ingredients found in urine were at levels generally consistent with results from other monitoring studies, e.g., the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The levels reported for these ingredients have not been shown to cause negative health effects, and the mere presence of a substance does not translate to harm.
“Consumers are often confused by scary sounding claims about chemical risks that may sound science-based, but do not reveal anything about actual risk levels. For example, the presence of trace levels of synthetic chemicals found in the human body does not mean there’s any danger to health. The substances that were included in the study are quickly excreted from the body, which is why they show up in urine; they do not bioaccumulate.
“The study did not take into account other possible sources of these substances, such as dietary exposure. A more detailed study design would be needed to determine the role of personal care products in exposure to these materials.
“Regarding the topic of endocrine activity, more education and study is needed as it is often misunderstood and misused. Many tested substances, both natural and synthetic, can impact endocrine activity. For example, natural chemicals in vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and soybeans have hormone-like activity.
“The study included three phthalates, only one of which – diethyl phthalate (DEP) – has any significant use in cosmetics and personal care products.
“DEP has been repeatedly assessed and found to be safe as currently used. The study also included parabens, which are important preservatives used to prevent microbial contamination to help keep products safe. Both DEP and parabens are widely used throughout the world and have been assessed for safety by scientific and regulatory bodies worldwide. The other two substances included in the study – oxybenzone and triclosan – are used in over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and have clear public health benefits. Oxybenzone is a sunscreen ingredient and helps prevent sun damage and premature skin aging. Triclosan is used in toothpaste to reduce germs that can cause gum disease. These ingredients have been used for decades in personal care products and have been evaluated and approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”