Toxic materials in 'beauty' products

Issue 

Kerry Smith

Engineered nanoparticles are being used in virtually every type of personal care product on the market, from sunscreens and anti-aging creams to shampoos and toothpastes, despite preliminary scientific evidence that many types of nanoparticles can be toxic.

Nanomaterials, sunscreens and cosmetics: small ingredients, big risks, a report released on May 16 by Friends of the Earth (FoE), details the extensive use of nanomaterials in 116 sunscreens, cosmetics and personal-care products on the market which have not been given aby safety assessment. The report also surveys a growing body of scientific research showing that many types of nanoparticles pose risks to consumers, workers and the environment.

"Some of the biggest names in cosmetics, including L'Or‚al, Revlon and Est‚e Lauder, as well as many lesser known brands, are rapidly introducing nanomaterials into their products and onto the faces and hands of millions of people, despite a growing body of evidence indicating nanomaterials can be toxic to humans", said FoE spokesperson Georgia Miller.

"Despite clear recommendations from the United Kingdom's Royal Society two years ago that nanomaterials should be subject to new safety testing prior to their inclusion in consumer products, Australian regulators have failed to require safety testing of nanoscale ingredients prior to their inclusion in cosmetics, sunscreens and personal care products. This represents one of the most dramatic failures of regulation since the introduction of asbestos.

"The use of potentially hazardous nanomaterials in personal care products is particularly alarming. These products are used daily, are designed to be applied directly to the skin, may be inhaled and are often ingested. The risks of exposure are significant.

"Some cosmetics manufacturers claim that the risks of toxic effects are reduced because their products do not penetrate the outer layers of dead skin. However the truth is that no-one knows if this claim is accurate — the necessary scientific testing has not been done.

"Friends of the Earth is calling for a moratorium on the further commercial release of personal care products that contain engineered nanomaterials, and the withdrawal of such products currently on the market, until adequate, publicly available, peer-reviewed safety studies have been completed, and a comprehensive regulatory regime is established to manage the risks associated with nanotoxicity."

[Visit <http://nano.foe.org.au/> to read the full report, or contact Georgia Miller (03) 9419 8700 or 0437 979 402.]

From Green Left Weekly, July 5, 2006.
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