Back to CPC Page

<--Return to Right to Know Page

From the Offices of the Cancer Prevention Coalition 

       Press Release, July 15, 2002

Major Cosmetic and Toiletry Ingredient Poses Avoidable Cancer Risks 

Major Cosmetic and Toiletry Ingredient Poses Avoidable
Cancer Risks, warns Professor of Environmental Medicine at
University of Illinois School of Public Health

CHICAGO, Newswire/ -- The following was released by Samuel
S. Epstein, M.D., Professor Environmental Medicine, University of
Illinois School of Public Health:

As reported on CBS Morning News, in early 1998, the National
Toxicology Program (NTP) recently found that repeated skin
application to mouse skin of diethanolamine (DEA), or its fatty
acid derivative cocamide-DEA, induced liver and kidney cancer.
Besides this "clear evidence of carcinogenicity," NTP also
emphasized that DEA is readily absorbed through the skin and
accumulates in organs, such as the brain, where it induces chronic
toxic effects.

High concentrations of DEA-based detergents are commonly
used in a wide range of cosmetics and toiletries, including
shampoos, hair dyes and conditioners, lotions, creams and bubble
baths, besides liquid dishwashing and laundry soaps. Lifelong use
of these products thus clearly poses major avoidable cancer risks
to the great majority of U.S. consumers, particularly infants and
young children.

Further increasing these cancer risks is longstanding
evidence that DEA readily interacts with nitrite preservatives or
contaminants in cosmetics or toiletries to form
nitrosodiethanolamine (NDELA), another carcinogen as well
recognized by Federal agencies and institutions and the World
Health Organization, which, like DEA, is also rapidly absorbed
through the skin. In 1979, FDA warned that over 40% of all
cosmetic products were contaminated with NDELA and called for
industry "to take immediate action to eliminate this carcinogen
from cosmetic products." In two 1991 surveys, 27 out of 29
products were found to be contaminated with high concentrations of
this carcinogen, results which were subsequently confirmed by the
FDA. Based on this information, the European Union and European
industry have both taken strong action to reduce or eliminate DEA
and NDELA from cosmetics and toiletries. In sharp contrast, the
FDA has taken no such action, nor has it responded to a 1996
petition from the Cancer Prevention Coalition to phase out the use
of DEA or to label DEA-containing products with an explicit cancer
warning. The mainstream U.S. industry has been similarly
unresponsive, even to the extent of ignoring an explicit warning
by the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrance Association to
discontinue uses of DEA. Such reckless intransigence is in strong
contrast to the responsiveness of the growing safe cosmetic

Tom Mower, CEO of Neways Inc., a major distributor of
carcinogen-free cosmetics, emphasizes: "I see no reason at all to
use DEA, as there are safe and cost-effective alternatives which
we have been using in a wide range of our cosmetics and toiletries
for the last decade."

Faced with escalating cancer rates, now striking more than
one in three Americans, FDA should take immediate action to
prevent further exposure to the avoidable carcinogens DEA and
NDELA in cosmetics, toiletries and liquid soaps. Safe and
effective alternatives to DEA are readily available.


For products without DEA or harmful chemicals


top of page

Copyright All rights reserved.

Telephone: 310-457-5176 or 888-377-8877 | Fax: 877-885-4657 | For General Information:

Webmaster for Shelley R. Kramer