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Groups petition federal government to enforce ban on endocrine disrupters in cosmetics

OTTAWA - A petition filed today by the David Suzuki Foundation and Réseau des femmes en environement asks why Canada isn't enforcing a prohibition on estrogen-mimicking substances in personal care products like shampoos, lotions, deodorants and make-up.

These hormone-disrupting chemicals are common ingredients in personal-care products found on store shelves across the country. The petition, submitted to Canada's Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Scott Vaughan, asks a series of questions about how Health Canada regulates endocrine disrupters in cosmetics. The government will have 120 days to respond.

"Canada's Cosmetic Regulations are clear: Products that contain estrogenic substances should not be allowed on the shelf," said Lisa Gue, researcher with the David Suzuki Foundation. "So what are these chemicals doing in our body products?"

The petition highlights that although Canada's Cosmetics Regulations prohibit the sale of any cosmetic that contains "an estrogenic substance," parabens, siloxanes, phthalates and BHA are common ingredients in cosmetics. All four show evidence of estrogenic activity and have been classified by the European Union as suspected endocrine-disrupting substances. The petition asks what action Health Canada is taking against manufacturers or importers of cosmetics containing these and other estrogen-mimicking endocrine disrupters.

"Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are ubiquitous and it makes sense to minimize unnecessary exposure," said Gue. "Health Canada has acknowledged this in recent decisions to ban Bisphenol-A in baby bottles and six types of phthalates in soft vinyl toys. We hope that our petition will spur the government to start enforcing the regulatory prohibition on estrogenic substances in cosmetics."

Endocrine disrupters are chemicals that mimic hormones or interfere in other ways with the endocrine system, which regulates various body functions. Estrogenic substances are endocrine disrupters that can mimic estrogens — the primary female sex hormones. There is a growing body of scientific evidence linking exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and adverse effects on wildlife and human health. These chemicals have been linked to a range of effects, from declining sperm counts and increased incidences of male genital malformations, to increased incidences of certain types of cancer.

Denmark recently announced a ban on parabens in children's cosmetics due to concerns about these chemicals' endocrine-disrupting effects. The petition asks whether Canada will follow suit.

In an online survey conducted last year, the David Suzuki Foundation asked Canadians to check their personal care products for a list of "dirty dozen" ingredients. Four out of five personal care products reported contained at least one ingredient with suspected links to environmental or health problems — including cancer, reproductive disorders, asthma and severe allergies.

Download a copy of the petition:

English (PDF)
French (PDF)

For more information, please contact:

For more information, please contact:
Lisa Gue, researcher, David Suzuki Foundation
(613) 594 5428

January 20, 2011