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Lack of information on what is in parfum stinks

OTTAWA — Canadians shouldn't need a doctor's note to find out what chemicals are inside their personal care products. But that's exactly what some companies are demanding when asked to declare what chemicals they use to make their shampoos, creams, cosmetics, and other products smell "nice".

Released today, Failing the Sniff Test reports on a David Suzuki Foundation campaign to gather information from companies about the fragrance chemicals in the personal care products they manufacture. Sixty-three Canadians joined the David Suzuki Foundation in submitting inquiries to 42 companies and their subsidiaries. The resulting report calls on Health Canada to require manufacturers to disclose the complete list of chemicals they use in fragrance formulations.

"Not a single company provided us with a complete list of the chemicals they use to fragrance their products," says Lisa Gue, health policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation. "This is unacceptable given the fact that some of those chemicals are associated with serious health and environmental problems. It makes you wonder what they have to hide."

A loophole in Canada's Cosmetic Regulations allows manufacturers to list any ingredients added "to produce or to mask a particular odour" to be identified generically as parfum on an ingredients listing. As many as 3,000 chemicals are used in fragrance mixtures, including phthalates, some of which are known endocrine disruptors. A single product can include a mixture of dozens or even hundreds of fragrance chemicals. Many of these unlisted ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines and asthma symptoms. Synthetic musks are of particular concern; some of them are categorized by Environment Canada as toxic.

Yet, the right of Canadians to know about the chemicals in the products they use does not seem to be of concern to manufactures. If they responded at all to inquiries, most manufacturers refused to disclose fragrance ingredients, citing proprietary interests. Some claimed ignorance about what chemicals are used in their fragrance mixtures. One compared phthalates to mushrooms, stating that some mushrooms are safe and some are not. And two companies offered to discuss the list of ingredients, but only with the customer's physician.

Click here for quotes from companies and the full report. Learn more about other aspects of the David Suzuki Foundation's campaign What's Inside? That Counts.

For more information, contact:

Lisa Gue, Environmental Health Policy Analyst, 613-594-5428
Leanne Clare, Communications Specialist, lclare@davidsuzuki.org 613-594-5410

June 14, 2011

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