Toxics Watchdog Finds Banned Preservatives in Cosmetics Products

A watchdog group
tracking banned substances in consumer products found 15 items laden with
certain types of parabens, which should no longer be used in cosmetics
formulations starting January 1, 2016.

As part of its ongoing campaign for chemical safety and zero waste, the
EcoWaste Coalition conducted test buys on January 16 and 17 to determine if the
ban on certain parabens under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive (ACD) is being
followed or not.

Annex II of the ACD has been amended to include benzylparaben,
isobutylyparaben, isopropylparaben, pentylparaben and phenylparaben  in
the “list of substances which must not form part of the composition of cosmetic

Last year, Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) OIC
Director General Maria Lourdes Santiago through FDA Circular 2015-014 advised
cosmetics companies to recall products containing the banned parabens and other
substances by the end of the grace period, which lasted until December 31, 2015.

“While the grace period has already come to an end, we still managed to find
and buy 15 products that list either isobutylparaben or isopropylparaben or
both among the product ingredients,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste
Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We found them in skin lightening and moisturizing lotion, body wash, liquid
hand soap and foot scrub cream,” he said.

“Out of these 15 products, six are locally manufactured and the rest are
imported from Canada and Indonesia,” he added.

In addition, the group also found US-made sun protection lotion products with
isobutylparaben on store shelf, but did not buy the high-priced items.

The group on January 18 sent its findings to the Food and Drugs Administration
(FDA), which promised to ask concerned companies to conduct the necessary
product recalls.

In their letter to the FDA  Center for Cosmetics
Regulation and Research (CCRR), the group requested the agency “to enforce FDA
Circular 2015-014 and related issuances, compel the concerned companies to
immediately withdraw the above products, which are out of specifications, and
undertake other necessary legal measures to ensure industry compliance.”

“It will also be useful to remind cosmetics consumers to carefully read the
product labels and shun those listing any of the banned parabens as
ingredient,” the group said.

Newly-designated CCRR Director Ana Rivera immediately replied saying that the
information received from the EcoWaste Coalition will be forwarded to the FDA Field
Regional Office.

“(We) will also write the concerned companies and call their attention to the
agreement to voluntarily recall these products by December 31, 2015 with the appropriate
penalties and sanctions that may apply,” the CCRR said.

Parabens are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics to prevent the growth
of microbes and promote a longer product shelf life.  However, parabens
have attracted critical attention because they can mimic hormones and disrupt
normal endocrine functions that can negatively affect human health.

Some studies have indicated that parabens can imitate estrogens, which have
been associated to an increased risk of breast cancer.  Other studies have
suggested that parabens can disrupt reproductive hormones.

The ban on cosmetics containing any of the abovementioned parabens took effect
in most ASEAN member states on August 1, 2015 except for Philippines and
Thailand, which requested for a longer grace period that ended on December 31,

The European Union had also banned these
five parabens in April 2014 because “limited or no information was submitted by
industry for (their) safety evaluation,” according to the European Commission
Regulation No. 358/2014.