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Report: Toxic Chemicals Left Off Many Product Labels
Labeling Loophole Leaves Toxic Chemicals Unlisted

08/25/2004
MARIANNE FAVRO
HEALTH CORRESPONDENT

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- If you use cosmetics and household cleaners, you may be unknowingly exposed to toxic chemicals, according to a new report by a consumer watchdog group.

After extensive testing, the National Environmental Trust found many of the products people use every day -- like household cleaners and cosmetics -- contain chemicals associated with cancer, reproductive harm and nervous system damage, NBC11's Marianne Favro reported.

And because of a labeling loophole the chemicals don't have to be listed on the product.

The bottom line to American consumers is that they can have complete confidence that the products they use are safe, Favro said.

"We tested household liquid cleaners and found there were a lot of ingredients not listed on the label," said Tom Natan, of the National Environmental Trust. "These include toxic chemicals like glycols, which we know from animal studies can cause fetal damage. We also know repeated exposure can cause brain damage."
The government insists that companies list, in detail, the active ingredients -- those that play a role in the products function.
But on some household cleaners the manufacturer doesn't need to specify the inert or inactive ingredients that serve no purpose in cleaning.

The NET claims toxins are often found in the inactive ingredients, including those used in cosmetics like the Revlon Moondrops lipstick.

Natan says phthalates are found in lipstick, which is not listed on the label because they're a part of the fragrance.

"The manufacturer does not make the fragrance, so it's just listed as 'fragrance' on the label and not phthalates," Natan said. "Phthalates are reproductive toxins and you don't really want them in lipsticks because some of the lipstick is going to get consumed."

The cosmetic industry is confident consumers are not at risk.

The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association said in a statement:

"The American cosmetics industry works closely with the FDA to ensure the safety of all cosmetics products sold in the United States. The bottom line to American consumers is that they can have complete confidence that the products they use are safe."

Also, while studies have shown phthalates can cause reproductive problems in animals, no studies on people have been conducted, Favro reported.

Dr. Robert Gould, the president of the Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, says manufacturers need to do more testing instead of consumers becoming part of a human experiment to determine the safety of these chemicals.

"It underscores the need to have a better handle on what these materials are, where they are going and how people are using them. So we can reduce the burden of acute and chronic diseases," Gould said.
The NET isn't claiming consumers will definitely get sick from any of these products.

The group just wants more product testing and better labeling so consumers can be assured the products they use are safe.

There are only two states, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which require manufacturers to document all the chemicals contained in a product.

There are now efforts under way to get California to do the same.


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