Report reveals secret fragrance chemicals in beauty, personal care, and cleaning products linked to cancer

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Kara Cook-Schultz


Washington — Today, U.S. PIRG is joining Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) to release a landmark report — Right to Know: Exposing Toxic Fragrance Chemicals in Beauty, Personal Care and Cleaning Products.The report exposes a pervasive problem in consumer products: Companies do not put all chemical ingredients on the label. In fact, companies often do not tell consumers about fragrance chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, reproductive harm and respiratory problems.

“BCPP’s report reveals that when we use common beauty and personal care products, we are exposed to a shocking number of unlabeled, unregulated toxic fragrance chemicals without our knowledge or consent,” said Janet Nudelman, Director of Program and Policy at BCPP and Director of BCPP’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

“Consumers assume that companies have to tell them what is in the products that they use in their homes, on their bodies, and buy for their children. But this report shows that companies are actually not telling consumers about most of these chemicals. That has to end,” said Kara Cook-Schultz, U.S. PIRG Toxics Director.

A U.S. federal labeling loophole and an unregulated $70 billion global fragrance industry allows dozens — sometimes even hundreds — of chemicals to hide under the word “fragrance” on the product labels of beauty and personal care products. The same is true for cleaning products.

One in four of the total 338 fragrance chemicals found were linked to serious, chronic health effects. BCPP’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and over 20 NGOs and safe cosmetic companies from around the country collaborated on selecting 32 beauty, personal care and cleaning products for laboratory testing.

No U.S. state or federal law regulates the safety of fragrance chemicals or requires the disclosure of fragrance ingredients to consumers, manufacturers or even regulatory agencies. The 80-year-old federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act grants the FDA only meager authority to oversee the $84 billion cosmetics industry.

Today, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2018, the only federal cosmetic safety bill that calls for full fragrance ingredient disclosure to consumers, manufactures and the FDA.

“This new report shows that we urgently need more transparency and better regulation of beauty and personal care products and the fragrances they contain,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky. “That’s why I introduced the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2018, which not only calls for full fragrance disclosure, but would ban toxic ingredients including carcinogens in personal care products. Consumers and workers have been at risk for too long because of secret chemicals in the products they use every day. My bill will address this important consumer and worker safety issue and give the FDA the resources it needs to ban unsafe beauty and personal care products.”