News Room

Personal Care Products Council Reaffirms Safety of Cosmetics, Says Silent Spring Study Flawed and Not Reflective of Sound Science

March 7, 2012

Contact:  Kathleen Dezio, (703) 338-0646 or Lisa Powers, (202) 466-0489

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Personal Care Products Council said a study by the Silent Spring Institute that claims to have found “harmful chemicals” in a wide range of household products again demonstrates the group’s lack of understanding of safety science.  Equating the mere presence of certain chemicals in products with potential harm is wrong and needlessly scares consumers about products formulated with ingredients that have a wealth of scientific data to support their safety.

The study, titled “Endocrine Disruptors and Asthma-Associated Chemicals in Consumer Products,” will be published today in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives.  

“The results of this study are not new or surprising and should not alarm consumers.  The mere presence of those chemicals identified does not mean they are harmful,” said Linda Loretz, PhD, senior scientist and director of safety and regulatory toxicology for the Council.  “Cosmetics and personal care products companies formulate their products to ensure that the amounts of ingredients used are within safety limits that have been established by scientific and regulatory bodies around the world.”

The report contains several key flaws with the methodology, including: 1) no criteria for the list of chemicals identified as “endocrine disruptors” or “asthma-associated” is provided in the study; 2) products were inappropriately tested together in batches, so no conclusions can be drawn about the results for any specific product; and 3) the analysis also provides no consideration for the potency, dose or exposure levels of the ingredients.

Analysis of the study

“Endocrine disruption”:  Chemicals with endocrine activity are abundant in nature, and present in much of the food we eat such as soy, cabbage, cereals, pomegranates, and coffee.  The study’s findings that allege “endocrine disruption” are not based on relevant science and ignore the fact that these ingredients are used at levels found to be safe by scientific and regulatory bodies around the world.

“Asthma-associated”:  The authors do not define what is meant by “chemicals linked to asthma” and “asthma-associated chemicals.”  Instead, the study includes compounds that are reported to have effects in occupational settings, which have no relevance to the significantly lower exposures in cosmetics and personal care products.

Diethylphthalate (DEP):  The study itself notes, “DEP is not generally characterized as an endocrine active compound,” and cites numerous references in support of its lack of endocrine activity, yet the authors persisted in listing it among “endocrine disruptors.”

Sunscreens:  Sunscreens were cited as endocrine disruptors based on the results of screening assays with no proven relevance for humans.  High levels in products are cited, without acknowledgment that these are the FDA-approved, normal levels for use in sun protection products.  Despite the body of scientific evidence and the determination by regulatory authorities and professional medical societies that sunscreens play a critical role in protecting consumers from UV radiation and premature aging, the authors still assert that sunscreens are harmful to humans.   

Mixtures:  The finding of multiple fragrance materials in a fragranced product is considered a “mixture,” seems to overlook the fact that fragrances are mixtures by definition.  The paper reports as a significant finding that certain fragrance compounds are often detected together in the same product.  Based upon how fragrances are developed, these are totally expected findings and raise no concern. 

Consumer Safety Benefits of Personal Care Products Ingredients Reviewed 

The ingredients examined in the Silent Spring study are important to the safety and functionality of personal care products. For example, parabens, which function as preservatives, are highly effective in preventing the growth of pathogenic fungi and bacteria, ensuring both the safety and quality of personal care products. 

UV filters and antimicrobials are critical to maintaining public health as well. UV filters are used to absorb or reflect the UV rays and to protect against skin cancer and premature aging. 

For more information on cosmetics and personal care products, visit

Based in Washington, D.C., the Personal Care Products Council is the leading national trade
association representing the global cosmetic and personal care products industry. Founded in 1894, the Council's more than 600 member companies manufacture, distribute, and supply the vast majority of finished personal care products marketed in the U.S.  As the makers of a diverse range of products millions of consumers rely on every day, from sunscreens, toothpaste and shampoo to moisturizer, lipstick and fragrance, personal care products companies are global leaders committed to product safety, quality and innovation.