Tests show designer fragrances contain endocrine disruptors
Perfumes can contain hundreds of different chemicals and in the EU, it is thought more than 2,500 different fragrance ingredients are used in perfumes and perfumed consumer goods. Under the EU regulation on cosmetic products, it is mandatory for cosmetics to be labelled with their ingredients. However, fragrance ingredients are normally protected as trade secrets and not listed on packaging, preventing consumers from making informed decisions to avoid chemicals that could negatively affect their health and the environment.
Eager to understand more about consumer exposure to harmful chemicals in perfumes, a joint initiative by three European organisations analysed the ingredients in 20 popular designer perfumes bought in Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark.
They searched for:
- Suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)
- Reprotoxic substances (substances that affect sexual function and fertility)
- Substances that are harmful to the environment.
Having obtained the ingredients lists for perfumes from well-known brands including Paco Rabanne, Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Dior, Armani and Yves Saint Laurent, the researchers compared these with substances of concern listed by several authoritative bodies. They found problematic substances in all 20 perfumes and only two without any suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals.
CHEM Trust is working hard to make sure harmful chemicals are not used in consumer products. However, in the meantime, reducing your use of cosmetics is the best way to limit your exposure to harmful chemicals. Where that is tricky, we recommend opting for ‘fragrance free’ cosmetics and personal care products so you can at least see the full list of ingredients used in products.
According to studies included in the report, women may use 12 to 16 personal care products in a single day, including perfume or fragranced personal care products. This exposes them to a cocktail of different chemicals to add onto exposure to harmful substances via other routes such as air, water and food. Decades of research have demonstrated that combined exposure to several chemicals can result in toxic cocktail effects. Crucially, adverse impacts from mixture effects can be triggered even when each chemical is present at low concentrations, below a level considered safe in single substance assessment. In our most recent report, we highlighted the need for chemicals regulation to take into account the combined exposure to harmful chemicals we experience in daily life. Read our report here.
Read the report on perfume here.