The Sunday Times
25 Nov 02
HIGH levels of a chemical blamed for causing infertility in men have been found in some of the world's best-known perfumes and cosmetics.
Chanel No 5, Christian Dior's Poison, Eternity from Calvin Klein and Tresor by Lancome were among 34 toiletries found by a Swedish study to contain di-ethylhexyl phthalate or other phthalates. The European Commission is proposing a ban on the use in cosmetics of two of the most potent forms of phthalates amid fears they cause genital abnormalities affecting up to 4 per cent of male babies.
These genital abnormalities – which can include undescended testicles and malformation of the urinary tract – are blamed for soaring levels of testicular cancer in young men. Cases of the disease have risen tenfold in the past century. About 1900 British males, some as young as 15, are diagnosed every year. Nine out of 10 cases are cured, but doctors are worried by the trend.
Scientists believe the phthalates could be absorbed into women's bloodstreams through the skin or inhalation.
The Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association condemned the report as inaccurate. It said: "Consumer safety is the first priority for the cosmetic industry and consumers can have complete confidence in the cosmetic products they use, and in the regulatory framework which ensures cosmetic safety."
Numerous studies on rats and mice have shown phthalate exposure causes genital abnormality. The latest research was conducted by a Swedish government-accredited laboratory for Healthcare Without Harm, a US-based organisation representing 300 consumer pressure groups around the world.
Researchers at the Analycen lab analysed 34 leading brands of cosmetics and found more than three-quarters contained phthalates, which help prevent loss of fragrance.
The investigation found other forms of the chemical in Tommy Girl perfume, Impulse Body Spray, Nivea Deo Compact, Sure Ultra deodorant, Shockwaves hair mousse and four hairsprays including Elnett Satin, Pantene Pro-V Extra Hold and Vidal Sassoon.
Per Rosander, who wrote the report, said: "What we know about these chemicals is that they cause damage to the reproductive system. That is why they have been classed by the EU as reproductive toxins."
Richard Sharpe, of the Medical Research Council's Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh, said: "If you wanted to produce a list of environmental causes of the reproductive health problems in boys, phthalates would be pretty near the top of the list."
Actor Julia Sawalha, who played Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous, supports the Women's Environmental Network, a backer of the Swedish research. "Chemicals that pose a risk to fertility do not belong in cosmetics, and manufacturers should be made to list ingredients," she said.