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Fewer phthalates found in perfume, similar products

A new report finds fewer controversial chemicals in personal care products, such as perfume and hair spray.

by Liz SzaboUSA Today
December 9th, 2008

Some manufacturers are removing or reducing their use of hormone-like ingredients called phthalates, commonly found in fragrances, according to a study released today by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of environmental groups.

Environmentalists have called for manufacturers to phase out phthalates because of studies that link them to genital changes in baby boys, reduced sperm counts in men and early puberty in girls. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found phthalates in the urine of nearly everyone tested.

The campaign's 2002 study found that more than 70% of 72 products tested contained phthalates. Phthalates usually aren't listed on ingredient labels. They also may leach into products from plastic containers.

In the new report, researchers retested 12 perfumes, deodorants and hair sprays that previously had high phthalate levels.

Nine have reduced or eliminated phthalates, the report shows. Two of the products — Secret Sheer Dry Regular deodorant and Arrid XX Dry Ultra Clear Ultra Fresh spray — have no phthalates. And Christian Dior's Poison perfume — which used to contain four types of phthalates — is virtually phthalate-free. Three samples of Poison had undetectable phthalate levels, while a fourth had low levels, according to the report.

Three of the 12 products retested —Charlie by Revlon, Wind Song by Prince Matchabelli and White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor — had even higher phthalate levels than in 2002.

"Some companies are finally getting the message that consumers don't want to rub and spray these toxic chemicals on our bodies," said the campaign's Lisa Archer in a statement.

John Bailey, of the Personal Care Products Association, says he sees no sign of a trend, however. He says that companies routinely change the ingredients in perfumes. He says companies have no reason to phase out phthalates, noting that the Food and Drug Administration views diethyl phthalate, the phthalate used most often in fragrances, as safe for this use.

Cathy Cook, a spokeswoman for the Fragrance Materials Association of the United States, says a European regulatory agency also has deemed that chemical to be safe in perfumes.