Wednesday, April 13, 2011Cosmetics news

Should Parabens be banned?

©Thinkstock - L'Observatoire des Cosmétiques

A law hoped for approval by the French Parliament, an opinion by the European Scientific Committee on Consumers’ Safety (SCCS) in view of a further regulation (and new restrictions) for some of them … the net is tightening around Parabens. The matter of the true toxicity of these preservatives still widely used in cosmetics has not yet come to an end.

Reading time
~ 7 minutes

April 13, 2011
The proposal for a law, sent by Yvan Lachaud, M.P., had been made on July 13, 2010 and has been studied by the Commission for Social Affairs on April 5.
This text is very simple, with only one article: "Manufacture, import, sales or offer of products containing phthalates, parabens or alkylphenols are banned."

Endocrine disruptors … as Bisphenol A

In his report in support of the proposal, the M.P. explained: “What is the common ground between a plasticizer , a preservative and an emulsifier ? These three chemical substances, found in a wide range of products used daily (made of plastics, cosmetic products , detergents, building materials, etc) have effects on reproduction and belong to the endocrine disruptors class.”

Bringing up the last year’s talks in Parliament, which went to the ban of sales of baby bottles containing Bisphenol A, Yvan Lachaud complains that almost nothing more has been done since about these substances. "We are yet far from getting the complete evaluation, supposed to be performed by the different [French] sanitary agencies (INSERM, InVS, AFSSAPS , ANSES) on this topic", he adds.

"Though the implementation of the Reach regulation should allow for a better controlling, even a banning of some of these endocrine disruptors , considered as a very important concern, he says, its real effects should be effective within only several years. Do we have time for waiting?"

Then he pushes forward the principle of precaution ruled in 1998 by the European Community Court of Justice ( "Where there is uncertainty as to the existence or extent of risks to human health, the Commission may take protective measures without having to wait until the reality and seriousness of those risks become apparent". Court of Justice, judgment of 5 May 1998, C 180/96, Point 99), and he concludes: "The Parliament must tackle the problem."

Debate postponed … in France

Admittedly, the proposal has been completely rejected by the Commission for Social Affairs, be it for a complete ban or a provisional ban.
It has been seen, as per the different speakers on the April 5 session, as laudable but too harsh to be applied as such, seen as impossible to enact as far as no substitutes have been found and thoroughly evaluated; even "worrying", due to a principle of precaution going too far; inefficient if enacted only in France, not in Europe as a whole. It got many criticisms, and made many people apply the same principle of precaution to its consequences … another way to use the principle of precaution.

Nevertheless, a unanimous Commission asked for more discussions on this topic. However, for the year to come, the French politicians and M.Ps. may have other priorities to talk about…
But Europe also is questioning these substances, as shown by a recent SCCS’ report .

Downward concentrations

Issued on 14 December 2010, and revised on 22 March 2011, this report evaluates the situation about the studies on parabens , already discussed for instance in several previous SCCS ’ reports: the first one, in 2005, ruling out any link between them and breast-cancer; another one, also in 2005, clearing Methylparaben and Ethylparaben use at the maximum concentrations allowed for cosmetics (0.4% when used alone, 0.8% if mixed), but not Propylparaben , Isopropylparaben , Butylparaben and Isobutylparaben , no suitable scientific data being then available.

These so-called "long-chain" parabens are at the heart of the concern, due to their potential endocrine disruptor effect. After studies over a period of six years and recording new scientific data, the SCCS had to answer the question: are these parabens safe enough to be used in cosmetics?

While the "how parabens are metabolized by human skin (and in which part)" question is not yet answered, the SCCS thinks it has enough data to confirm its previous report on Methylparaben and Ethylparaben : these "short-chain" parabens are safe, at the maximum allowed concentrations.

On the other hand, the Committee re-evaluates security of Butylparaben and Propylparaben and recommends limiting their use, so that the combined concentration is 0.19% maximum.

More questions, more concerns

Pointing out a lack of data on Isopropylparaben and Isobutylparaben , the SCCS says that their risks on human health cannot be assessed.

It emphasizes too on the fact that Benzylparaben and Pentylparaben are in the same situation … when these substances are not listed in the list of preservatives annexed to the European Regulation on cosmetic products, a point that the SCCS states as “an anomaly, which "may have effects on consumer safety".

This should bring additional burden to the European Commission, which shall now transpose in official documents recommendations and reports of this Experts Committee, including gray areas … which could lead to further discussions, for some more years!

© 2011- 2020  CosmeticOBS

Associated elements(3)

Cosmetics newsOther articles