UFC-Que Choisir has published a list of 185 products, including toothpaste, perfume, shampoo, deodorant, nail polish and baby wipes, which it says contain substances that are legal but potentially toxic.
“In light of the absence of suitable European regulation, we want to put pressure on manufacturers through consumers’ purchasing behavior,” said Olivier Andrault, who led the study.
Among the substances that are legal for manufacturers to use but could cause allergies, irritations or endocrine disorders are phenoxyethanol, which could be toxic for the blood and liver, and a “totally unnecessary” UV filter known as ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, which is often listed on sunscreen products as octinoxate and may lead to endocrine disruption.
While the warning has only been issued to French consumers, many of the products listed are also for sale in the U.K. and many other countries across the world. Familiar brands like Adidas, Playboy, Head & Shoulders, Garnier and Colgate are included.
Parents may be concerned to know that many of the products, such as Nivea Baby Pure & Sensitive baby wipes, contain allergenic toxins not suitable for babies’ skin.
And of the 185 products, more than 100 contain hormone-changing substances.
“Despite repeated warnings to toxicologists and dermatologists, manufacturers still haven’t changed their practices,” said UFC-Que Choisir.
The consumer group advised the public to not buy any of the products, particularly if they are to be used on at-risk people (such as babies). It also called on consumers to report any adverse reactions to the manufacturers.
In response to the study, the Federation of Cosmetics Makers said beauty and hygiene products sold in France were safe and met European regulation, which it described as “the most demanding in the world.”
“Our safety evaluation system is very robust and all our products and our ingredients are rigorously evaluated before they are put on the market, always in full conformity to the regulation in place,” L’Oréal said in a statement.
Be that as it may, the regulation isn’t necessarily offering the public enough protection. Just because something is legal, it doesn’t mean it is safe for everyone. Big brands shouldn’t be waiting for substances to be banned before they stop using them.