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Perfume: Cupid's Arrow or Poison Dart?
CHICAGO, Feb. 7, 2000 /PRNewswire/ -- Lovers looking for the perfect Valentine's gift should think twice before giving a bottle of toxic chemicals to their sweethearts. Recent analysis of Calvin Klein's "Eternity Eau de Parfum" (Eternity) by an industry laboratory specializing in fragrance chemistry revealed 41 ingredients. These include some known to be toxic to the skin, respiratory tract, nervous, and reproductive systems, and others known to be carcinogens; no toxicity data are available on several ingredients, while data on most are inadequate. Additionally, some ingredients are volatile and a source of indoor air pollution. Since 1995, several consumers have complained to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of neurological and respiratory problems due to Eternity.
The analysis was recently commissioned by the Environmental Health Network (EHN) as many members had complained of asthma, migraine, sensitization, or multiple chemical sensitivity when exposed to Eternity. Based on this analysis, EHN filed a Citizen Petition with the FDA on May 11, 1999, which was subsequently endorsed by the Cancer Prevention Coalition. The petition requests that the FDA take administrative action and declare Eternity "misbranded" or "adulterated" since it does not carry a warning label as required by the terms of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. Grounds for requesting the warning label include FDA regulation 21CFR Sec. 740/10: "Each ingredient used in a cosmetic product and each finished cosmetic product shall be adequately substantiated for safety prior to marketing. Any such ingredient or product whose safety is not adequately substantiated prior to marketing is misbranded unless it contains the following conspicuous statement on the principal display panel: 'Warning: the safety of this product has not been determined'."
Since May, over 700 consumers with health problems from exposure to various mainstream fragrances have written to the FDA supporting EHN's petition. The FDA responded on November 30 to the effect that they had been unable to reach a decision on the grounds of "other priorities and the limited availability of resources." The petition is thus still open for further public complaints and endorsements. [Note: Over 1,300 consumers have written to the FDA as of 10/02.]
A wide range of mainstream fragrances and perfumes, predominantly based on synthetic ingredients, are used in numerous cosmetics and toiletries, and also soaps and other household products. Currently, the fragrance industry is virtually unregulated. Its recklessness is abetted and compounded by FDA's complicity. The FDA has refused to require the industry to disclose ingredients due to trade secrecy considerations, and still takes the position that "consumers are not adversely affected -- and should not be deprived of the enjoyment" of these products. The Cancer Prevention Coalition and EHN take the unequivocal position that the FDA should implement its own regulations and act belatedly to protect consumer health and safety.
Valentine sweethearts should switch to organically grown (pesticide-free) roses or other flowers as safe alternatives to mainstream perfumes.
Contact: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor of Environmental Medicine, University
of Illinois, School of Public Health, Chicago, Illinois, Chairman, the Cancer
Prevention Coalition, 312-996-2297;
or Barbara Wilkie of the Environmental Health Network
PR Newswire: http://www.prnewswire.com
It is in this article that we see (smell?) industry duplicity at its best . . . well to my mind's way of thinkin' anyway. First we read: "Products are thoroughly tested before being marketed to assure their health and safety, says Glenn Roberts, spokesperson for the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials, an industry-sponsored group that does testing of chemicals. " And then, further along we find: "In response to the perceived problems of fragrances in the air, Roberts says that his industry group has begun the first study to examine fragrance inhalation. 'Wežre spending a lot of money on this,' he says, 'to understand the systemic effects of fragrances on organs and nervous system, what happens when fragrances are inhaled.' "
Never mind the whine about spending a lot of money on this . . . the industry's expense can't hold a candle (make sure it is scent-free and has a leadless wick!) to what the millions of people who are already fragrance sensitized have lost in terms of health, family and friends, income, doctor expenses, home and hearth.
If the industry states its products are thoroughly tested before marketing, then one must assume that a product made to be smelled (inhaled) is tested for adverse effects upon inhalation by user and those coming in contact with the users' noxious vapor trails. And it is quite natural to assme a product made to be applied to the body -- that means it is absorbed by the body! -- and inhaled -- the respiratory process is very efficient in getting toxins into the body system -- should also be tested for systemic effects suffered by user and others at the second and thirdhand levels of exposure.
Or, perhaps I just need to have the concept of thoroughly tested before marketing explained to me through my favoritest of all chemical industry phrases, "SOUND science." It's right up there with my love of "SOUND economics!"
By the way, another thing you'll hear from the industry from time to time is that they meet or exceed the FDA regulations. Well, it's not hard to exceed that which doesn't really exist. The fragrance industry is SELF-regulated. Heavens, the FDA doesn't even require the one thing it can . . . a warning label affixed to all cosmetics that aren't adequately tested before marketing. That warning is to read:
For more information on assurances by industry, see
Also, see Not Too Pretty, a report on phthalates in cosmetics and fragrances. Phthalates are hormone disrupters and could have adverse effects upon men, women, developing fetuses, and children. Go to http://www.nottoopretty.org to study this issue for yourself.
We found phthalates in fragrances and that info is part of the Citizens' Petition currently open and receiving comments by the FDA (see below). EHN's Citizens' Petition is a formal mechanism for having your comments regarding synthetic scent chemicals registered by the FDA. Join us in writing to YOUR Food and Drug Administration. -- barb
10/2002 -- Since the FDA Petition, Docket Number 99P - 1340, was accepted in May 1999, more than 1,300 letters have been received by the FDA. If the FDA receives 100 letters a year on a topic, other than fragrances, it becomes newsworthy in the New York Times. (See "Time to Review Your Cosmetics, Under Bright Light" By JANE E. BRODY; May 22, 2001; PERSONAL HEALTH at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/22/health/22BROD.html -- barb
Reference: Docket Number: 99P-1340/CP 1
Email Address -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FAX Number -- 301.827.6870
Letters may be mailed to:
The Food and Drug Administration
Department of Health and Human Services, Rm. 1-23
12420 Parklawn Dr.
Rockville, MD 20857
Study the Analysis Summary
To view a sample letter, visit:
Fragrance information can be found on the following website:
By the way, YOUR FDA has this comment regarding synthetic scents buried on a food page -- http://www.fda.gov/oc/fdama/fdamawebcast/stakeholdersquestions/foods.html
A. FDA has little or no information that would support actions to raise public awareness of possible health risks associated with the use of fragranced products. Current regulations do require that products that contain added fragrance ingredients must be labeled in the product ingredient statement as containing "fragrance." FDA is aware of concern about this issue and encourages continued participation by its stakeholders in gathering data to address the possible health risks associated with the use of fragranced products. FDA is committed to fostering such participation by its continued sponsorship of stakeholder outreach initiatives, e.g. public meetings. These public forums not only provide interested persons with an opportunity to comment on the potential health risks associated with fragranced products, but also help identify possible solutions to address these risks." (Web page updated by clb 1999-JUL-16. )
EXCUSE MEEEeeeeee . . . The FDA has WHAT? It has LITTLE OR NO INFORMATION?!? Our FDA actually had the temerity to state -- but buried it at the bottom of a food page -- "FDA has little or no information that would support actions to raise public awareness of possible health risks associated with the use of fragranced products. . . . "
Then the FDA goes on to state: "Current regulations do require that products that contain added fragrance ingredients must be labeled in the product ingredient statement as containing "fragrance." Whoopee! BUT, what the FDA does not state here is that they allow products labeled "fragrance-FREE" or "UNscented" to carry synthetic fragrance chemicals as a masking scent to cover otherwise objectionable chemical odors. How little poison is little enough? The already chemically injured individual reacts to products clearly marked fragrance-free and then becomes the butt of ridicule in public venues. Those who ridicule the harbingers may soon wish they had paid closer attention to their words of wisdom regarding synthetic scents.
As far as FDA fostering participation, let's swamp the agency with several hundred thousand letters stating you want your right to know respected and that means that at a minimum the FDA requires its warning message on products released to market without adequate testing.
It seems to me that the FDA is showing that it is pervaded with the notion of the rights of industry over the rights of public health and well being, and by extension, the public's right to know.
What IF the FDA and industry were held fiscally responsible and accountable for all the lives lost and ruined by the pervasiveness of our modern synthetic chemical products? One would assume industry would have been more circumspect in its release of inadequately tested products to market and certainly, the FDA would long ago have issued public health alerts regarding the toxic chemicals used to concoct our modern synthetically scented products.
I cannot help but feel that because of the FDA's inaction, despite reports from the harbingers, the activists, and the over 1,000 people who wrote regarding Citizens' Petition 99P-1340, millions more people of ALL races, ages and gender have been adversely affected by the toxic chemicals used to concoct synthetic scents. Reprehensibly, the rates of people whose health is in severe decline, and who have become disabled due to chronic diseases, have increased dramatically. But what is really numbingly vile is the fact that too many good people have suffered premature death and too few amongst the POWERS THAT BE seem to give a tinker's damn.
FDA begin to prove me wrong! Require your warning message on all inadequately-tested fragrances released to market. The public has a right to know. We the people have a right to read on fragrance products, "WARNING: The safety of this product has not been determined." See FDA Authority Over Cosmetics at http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-206.html. -- barb
Reach us by e-mail:
Barb Wilkie, board member, EHN president June 1, 2000 . . .
Betty Bridges, RN; EHN Advisory Board and FPIN
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The Environmental Health Network (EHN) [of California] is a 501 (c) (3) non profit agency and offers support and information for the chemically injured. EHN brings you topics on this page that need your immediate attention The URL for this page is http://ehnca.org/www/FDApetition/fragmisbt.htm