Another incriminatory document against aluminium in cosmetics. After a recent report by the Norwegian Scientific Committee VKM, using them daily, especially in antiperspirants, leads to an exposure to aluminium far beyond the acceptable weekly exposure; further, this exposure is well above that from diet.
The VKM, which comprises experts in food, food additives, materials in contact with food and with cosmetics, contaminants…) performed this study after a request by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.
It was requested to assess the exposure of the Norwegian population to aluminium through food and cosmetics use, and to compare this exposure with the tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 1 mg Al/kg body weight (bw)/week established by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA; 2008) and the provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) of 2 mg Al/kg bw/week established by JECFA (a World Health Organization committee of experts on food additives; 2012).
Aluminium is a commonly occurring metal in the earth’s crust and occurs, therefore, naturally in drinking water and agricultural products. Humans are exposed to aluminium through food, drinking water and the use of cosmetic products and pharmaceuticals. Other sources of aluminium in food are the use of food additives containing aluminium and migration of aluminium from food contact materials to food.
As for cosmetics, the products surveyed in this study are those likely to contain the highest levels of aluminium, i.e. anti-perspirants, lipsticks and lip gloss, as well as some whitening toothpastes.
Dietary exposure: acceptable
The total exposure to aluminium is a summation of the estimated dietary exposure and the estimated exposure through the use of cosmetic products, on different age groups, taking into account the aluminium bio-availability through the two routes. The tolerable intakes have been recalculated as systemic exposure doses (SED), leading to the reference figures of 1 μg Al/kg bw/week (EFSA) and 2 μg Al/kg bw/week (JECFA.)
As an average, depending on the age group, the estimated dietary exposure of the Norwegian population to aluminium is between 0.22 and 0.89 mg/kg bw/week. This exposure is similar to that of other European populations, the experts say.
For the most exposed people, depending on the age group, figures go from 0.5 to 1.9 mg/kg/week.
This exposure is below the tolerable intakes.
As for cosmetics, they may be, for children, teenagers and adults, an additional source of exposure.
Anti-perspirants, by far, are the main sources of the overall exposure to aluminium.
Cosmetics: an excessive exposure
For people who use lipsticks or lip gloss everyday, the exposure, in a standard scenario (normal skin, cutaneous absorption: 0.6%) varies from 0.51 to 1.4 µg/kg/week, which is lower than the reference systemic exposure doses.
However, in a worst-case scenario (10.7% skin absorption, stripped skin), the mean and high total systemic exposures ranged from 4.5 to 14 μg Al/kg bw/week, figures far beyond tolerable levels.
Add to this an antiperspirant, used every day, the mean systemic exposure goes up to 30 to 50 µg/kg/week for the standard scenario, and up to 600 to 940 µg/kg/week for the worst scenario.
Exposure above the TWI/PTWI value is not desirable, as the VKM report tells. An exceedance, whatever small, of these values represents a reduced safety margin. However, the large exceedance (15-50 folds) of the TWI/PTWI, which was seen for consumers using several cosmetic products in addition to the dietary exposure, will reduce the safety margin further and increase the risk of adverse effects. The exposure situation is even more of concern for individuals shaving their armpits often or having impaired skin.
As a conclusion, by the VKM: this risk assessment shows that cosmetic products, and in particular, antiperspirants, contribute considerably more than diet to the total systemic aluminium exposure.
For further information
• See the full text of Risk assessment of the exposure to aluminium through food and the use of cosmetic products in the Norwegian population, VKM, April 2013