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Are Phthalates DBP and DEHP Back in Fragrance??!

The latest in transparency from the International Fragrance Association (IFRA)

Are Phthalates DBP and DEHP Back in Fragrance??!

Alex Scranton
Director of Science and Research

Since 2010, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) has published a list on their website of roughly 3,000 ingredients currently used by the fragrance industry. The methodology of how the list is put together has always been somewhat mysterious, in that the list changes from year to year without explanation. Over the years that we have been tracking the list, the changes have been relatively minor, and generally headed in the right direction. We have tracked at least 10 highly toxic fragrance chemicals that were removed from the list over time.

And then the list was updated most recently this past October … An astounding increase of approximately 750 ingredients were added to the list, without explanation.

Included in the new list are five kinds of phthalates (including notably toxic DBP and DEHP which are linked to reproductive and developmental harm) which the fragrance industry publicly declared over a decade ago were no longer in use by the industry.[1]

Also returning to the list after some years is styrene oxide, a cancer-causing chemical found on both the California Proposition 65 and the NTP Carcinogens list.

While we greatly appreciate the improved transparency with respect to the use of these chemicals (which we assume never really had disappeared from use in fragrance in the first place), their potential presence in fragrances we are exposed to everyday is certainly troubling.

What Does the Industry’s Expert Panel for Fragrance Safety Have to Say?

One consequence of the earlier removal of these chemicals from the transparency list is that they have never been reviewed by the fragrance industry’s Expert Panel for Fragrance Safety. (Why review chemicals you claim not to use?) Now that they are back on the list, we would think these highly toxic and therefore highly controversial chemicals would be prioritized at the top of the list for needing an immediate safety review.

Until recently, we wouldn’t be able to even find out if the Expert Panel was planning a review. Back in December 2015, Women’s Voices for the Earth published a report on the fragrance industry that highlighted the fact that the Expert Panel operated in secrecy. No minutes, agendas or even dates or locations of their meetings were ever made public. Apparently, we struck a nerve with this report, as just 10 months later, at their September 2016 meeting, the Expert Panel was reviewing and editing their first ever Transparency Policy.

This new policy establishes that the Panel will now have a website, listing meeting times and locations, agendas and minutes – so that the public can finally see what they are doing – and even participate (in writing) on their proceedings. The Transparency policy even includes a statement that written comments will be solicited from the public for information on any chemical they plan to review. The website is now up – you can view it here.

Their next meeting will be held January 22-24, 2018 in Miami. I have yet to see a formal solicitation of public comments on their website, but I will look for one with this upcoming meeting. The agenda should be posted 10 -14 days before the meeting, and will list the chemicals they plan to review. I hope to see at the very least an agenda item to discuss the prioritization of safety reviews for the newly added chemicals, highlighting the need to review the very toxic chemicals that have been re-added to the list of fragrance chemicals in use.

Again, we greatly appreciate this new commitment to transparency on the part of the fragrance industry and welcome the opportunity to provide input more directly into their safety review process.

Stay tuned …

[1] “Safety concerns have been raised most recently about Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) and Diethyl Hexyl Phthalate (DEHP). However, neither DBP nor DEHP is permitted for use in cosmetic products in Europe. On a global basis they have never been important as fragrance ingredients and today their use in fragrances is virtually nil.” From IFRA POSITION STATEMENT ON DIETHYL PHTHALATE (DEP), September 2005. Available at: www.ifraorg.org/view_document.aspx?docId=22190

1 Response

  1. The reintroduction of DBP and DEHP is an audacious move on IFRA’s part. As long as the fragrance loophole persists, and as long as the beauty industry expects us to blindly trust their good intentions and self-regulation, we are robbed of the opportunity to make informed decisions to benefit ourselves and our families.

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