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.

News
One Direction's Zayn Malik gazes at a bouquet of flowers in the 'Night Changes' music video
people
News
people
News
'Free the Nipple' film screening after party with We Are The XX, New York, America - 04 Feb 2014
news
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn