Calls to ban dangerous chemicals

Guidelines do not take into account the 'cocktail effect' of substances in various household products

A group of dangerous chemicals found in everything from children's toys to toothpaste and furniture are not being properly policed, campaigners warned yesterday. The impact of the chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors, on hormones has the potential to cause cancers, birth defects and environmental damage.

An analysis of how five of the most widely used of these chemicals are controlled has found that regulators are putting human and environmental health at risk by being insufficiently vigilant. Experts warn that watchdogs are not considering the cumulative "cocktail effect" of multiple exposures to these substances, and have failed to keep up to date with the latest science.

The study, which will be published later this month by the campaigning legal group ClientEarth, has alarmed scientists, who already believe the substances should be banned.

The five chemicals studied include bisphenol A (BPA), which has been banned from use in babies' bottles and toys because of links to hormone imbalance in foetuses and infants. The regulation of four other hormone-affecting chemicals – triclosan, octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) and diethyl phthalate (DEP) – was also analysed.

Dr Emma Meredith, of the industry-funded Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA), said that most of these chemicals were legal for cosmetics, adding: "Though there are many studies out there, there are no links between what people call endocrine disruptors and human illness."

The Independent on Sunday approached eight of Britain's biggest household care and cosmetics companies to see which of them was still using these chemicals. Five admitted to using one or more; two refused to confirm their ingredients and one said it did not use them.

With animal tests revealing impacts as diverse as cancers, damaged immune systems and lowered fertility, scientists believe that these substances could be hazardous to human health. Kevin Brigden, a scientist for Greenpeace, said: "The critical thing about phthalates is they're not locked into the material. They leach out, and because of that you find household dust which contains phthalates."

L'Oréal, Johnson & Johnson and The Body Shop all confirmed that they used OMC in their sunscreens. In a statement, The Body Shop said it used the chemical only in a "limited number of products", and had "prohibited the use of phthalates in all of its cosmetics in 2007". Johnson & Johnson said it had "stopped using phthalates and triclosan in new consumer products and our goal is to phase out of them in our existing products by 2015"; L'Oréal said all of its products are "rigorously tested for safety... including possible endocrine disruption".

Colgate-Palmolive said it used triclosan in its Colgate Total toothpaste because "it is clinically proven to reduce plaque and gum disease", and because scientific bodies had declared "its use in a maximum concentration of 0.3 per cent is safe for consumers". Studies on animals suggest it could affect hormonal balance and the immune system.

Unilever said it had phased out DEP, and that ingredients such as triclosan and cinnamate would be labelled on the pack. Reckitt Benckiser, which produces cleaning products such as Dettol and Vanish, would not confirm that its products were free from the five chemicals, but said they were on a "guideline of ingredients not to be used". P&G said that triclosan, DEP and OMC "are legally allowed for safe use in cosmetic products under very strict European cosmetic legislation". Kimberly-Clark said it did not use any of these chemicals in its products.

All companies producing or importing chemicals must register them with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and send in detailed summaries of the latest research on that substance. ClientEarth found that important scientific findings were omitted from the dossiers for many endocrine-disrupting chemicals, leaving regulators, consumers and manufacturers dangerously uninformed.

Dr Lisette van Vliet, senior policy adviser at the Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL), which represents environmental health groups across Europe, said: "We can't be sure that endocrine disruptors are being identified and properly controlled. These chemicals ought to be phased out as soon as possible."

Though manufacturers are required to declare ingredients on their products, some do not do so with all chemicals, as a loophole allows scents to be kept secret. A Defra spokeswoman said: "It is important to monitor the effect of chemicals on people and wildlife, which is why we are undertaking research into the potential impact of hormone-disrupting chemicals."

Endocrine disruptors: what they do and where they are

Triclosan

With its antibacterial properties, triclosan is a popular ingredient in toothpaste, hand wash, deodorant, cleaning products and children's toys. Studies on animals suggest it could affect hormonal balance and the immune system. It has been found in plasma, breast milk and fish.

BPA

Bisphenol A is ubiquitous in plastic products, including food containers, medical equipment, glues, toys, furnishings and electrical equipment. It was formerly in baby care products, but has been banned in these. Linked to cancer in adults and hormone imbalances in foetuses and babies.

DEP

Used in fragrances, where it is often listed in the ingredients only as "parfum", diethyl phthalate can also be found on medicine coatings, in cleaning products, household furnishings and food packaging. Studies on pregnant rats showed high doses affected skeletal development.

TBBPA

Used as a fire retardant in household furnishings and children's toys, tetrabromobisphenol A is potentially toxic to the environment, with tests on fish suggesting it may affect thyroid function. It has been found in house dust, soil and the air.

OMC

Widely used in sunscreens and lip balms, octyl methoxycinnamate has been detected in breast milk as well as natural waters and aquatic life. A study of rats found that the offspring of mothers exposed to high doses during pregnancy had smaller testes and lower testosterone levels.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

    Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

    Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

    Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices