Council cautions consumers on perfumes and cosmetics

21/05/2010 16:16

The Consumer Council of Fiji would like to caution consumers to closely scrutinize labels and investigate further about the contents of the product before buying perfumes and cosmetics. This is after an overseas scientific study found that top-selling fragrance products- from Britney Spears’ Calvin Eternity and Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio - contain a dozen or more secret chemicals not listed on labels, multiple chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions or disrupt hormones and many substances that have not been assessed for safety by the beauty industry’s self-policing review panels.

Most of the perfumes are also sold in Fiji. The findings above has led Council to re-iterate its call for a proper or mandatory information labelling standard for Fiji as we don’t have this at present. Consumers of cosmetic products in Fiji face health and safety risks as they are unaware of what kind of chemicals they are exposing their body to because cosmetic products in Fiji do not have content labelling or proper product information.

The study of hidden toxic chemical in perfumes was conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of health and environmental groups based in America, which tested 17 fragranced products at an independent laboratory. The analysis reveals that the 17 products contained on average:

  • Fourteen secret chemicals not listed on labels due to a loophole in federal law that allows companies to claim fragrances as trade secrets. American Eagle Seventy Seven contained 24 hidden chemicals, the highest number of any product in the study;
  • Ten sensitizing chemicals associated with allergic reactions such as asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis. Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio contained 19 different sensitizing chemicals, more than any other product in the study; and
  • Four hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to a range of health effects including sperm damage, thyroid disruption and cancer. Halle by Halle Berry, Quicksilver and Glow by JLO each contained seven different chemicals with the potential to disrupt the hormone system.

Earlier this year, the Council also conducted a survey of 23 popular cosmetics products ranging from hair gels to perfumed body lotions based on consumer complaints. This survey revealed that 20 (87%) did not have information on ingredients and no information on health risks such as potential allergic effects. Only five out of the 23 surveyed products gave information on the country or origin or manufacturer, while 18 did not have this information. The only three products that had ingredients labelling were USA-made, while many of those without proper information were from Asian markets.

The products surveyed were mostly those at the lower –end of the market, which are highly patronised retail outlets in Suva’s central business district. The Council is worried that many cheap imitation cosmetic products are flooding the market with no proper labelling-i.e. ingredients and safety information missing. Apart from health safety risks, consumers are exposed to unscrupulous business practices and consequently being cheated of their money.

Last year the Council was part of an international survey on paraben (an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical or EDC) in colour cosmetics. There is a disturbingly low level of consumer awareness of potentially harmful chemical contained in many cosmetic products sold in Fiji. Out of those surveyed 79% had no knowledge of the likely presence of parabens in colour cosmetics.

In Australia there is mandatory labelling of cosmetics and toiletries under its Trader Practices Act (Cosmetics Regulations 1991). The labelling standard requires products to have a list of ingredients so consumers can: identify ingredients to which they may be allergic or which may cause an adverse reaction; and compare various cosmetic products. The Australia regulation requires that all supplies – manufacturers, wholesalers/distributors and retailers – must ensure their product complies with the mandatory information standard.

The Council hopes that a mandatory consumer product information standard would protect consumers and also prevent imitation and potentially dangerous cosmetics being dumped in the country by unscrupulous traders.