Are Perfumes and Cleaning Supplies Toxic?

Did you know that Perfume and other types of fragrances are the single largest category of cosmetic products? Hair gels and supplies, facial creams and eye cosmetics are the kings of the hill in this category.   These cosmetic supplies are responsible for nearly 50 percent of all dollars now spent in the US  for cosmetics.  Fragrances are also included in the household products that we use.

Exposure to toxic ingredients in cosmetic products occur through the pores of our skin. Now, in the case of cleaning products, the exposure is through inhalation.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has direct authority to regulate toxic ingredients in that are contained in cosmetics and personal care products. For seven decades, they have failed to do so. Similarly, the Environmental Protection Agency has also still failed to regulate these toxic ingredients in household cleaning products.

Since neither organization has done anything to prevent exposure, it is left up to the International Fragrance Association (IFRA). The IFRA is an international trade organization of over 100 perfume and fragrance manufacturers, representing 15 regions including the US, Europe, South America, Australia and the Far East.

According to this organization, of the more than 5,000 ingredients used in the fragrance industry, approximately 1,300 have so far been evaluated by the industry’s International Research Institute for Fragrance Materials. Evaluation of ingredient safety is made by an “independent” board of toxicologists, pharmacologists and dermatologists, without disclosure of their qualifications, let alone conflicts of interest. Their findings are presented to IFRA’s Scientific Advisory Board, and then published in its trade journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology. The information reported in this journal is the basis on which IFRA formulates its own “safety guidelines.” However, due to the “trade secret” status of fragrances, manufacturers are still not required by the FDA to disclose their ingredients on the label or in any other way.

In May 1999, in response to numerous complaints of respiratory, neurological, and other toxic effects following the use of Calvin Klein’s Eternity perfume, the Environmental Health Network of California hired two testing laboratories to identify the ingredients in the perfume. These results were analyzed by the Cancer Prevention Coalition.  These results were summarized in the author’s 2009 Toxic Beauty book, reveal the following:

• 26 ingredients whose “Toxicological properties have not been investigated,” or “toxicology properties have not been thoroughly investigated.”

• 25 ingredients that are “Irritants.”

• 5 ingredients that are “Skin sensitizers,” or allergens.

• 3 ingredients that show “Fetal, hormonal, and reproductive toxicity.”

• 2 ingredients that “May cause cancer.”

Dr. Vey, president of IFRA, failed to respond to repeated warnings from August to October 2003 from the Cancer Prevention Coalition. These warnings said that “all fragrance products be labeled to the effect that, apart from the absence of known skin and respiratory allergens, they contain no known carcinogens, gene damaging, hormonal, or otherwise toxic ingredients.”

Clearly, we can’t rely on the FDA, IFRA or any of the programs in place for regulation of toxic chemicals in perfumes and cleaning supplies.  Everyone should look up the ingredients and know what they are inhaling and putting on their skin.