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Published April  19, 2005

FDA looks at health risk of cosmetics chemicals


The Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether the chemicals that make shampoos fragrant and nail polish chip-resistant are hazardous to your health.

Since last year, the agency has been studying phthalates (pronounced THA-laytes), a group of chemicals used for decades in personal-care products. Studies on animals showed the chemicals could harm reproductive organs or cause other health concerns.

Of the 48 cosmetics it surveyed, the FDA found most contained at least one phthalate. The chemicals do everything from making plastic more flexible to slowing evaporation to allow a perfume's fragrance to linger. They show up in shampoo, hair spray, deodorant, skin cream and body washes.

The European Union banned two phthalates from cosmetics sold in Europe. With pressure mounting for more regulatory action in this country, Revlon and Procter &amp; Gamble Co. removed those phthalates from their products sold in the United States.

If the FDA finds evidence that phthalates are harmful, it "will advise the industry and the public, and will consider its legal options ... in protecting the health and welfare of consumers."

Stacy Malkan, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of health and environmental groups, said: "That's really a great first step, but there's still a long way to go to work toward really safe cosmetics."

Copyright 2005 Detroit Free Press Inc.

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