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Canada Places New Bans on Personal Care Product Toxins


Although many of the chemicals deemed safe by the Canadian federal government have not been reexamined since the 1980's, new assessments have resulted in several chemicals that are known carcinogens and pollutants being placed on the toxic substances list. The chemicals that are to be restricted include the siloxanes D4 and D5, TTBP, thiourea, isoprene, pigment yellow 34, pigment red 104, and epichlorohydrin.

Canada passed its first modern pollution laws in the 1980's. Many of the chemicals that went through extensive research at that time set the standard for similar chemicals that remained untested until the present.

The recent reports, released at the end of January 2009, set ideal limits for the use of certain chemicals that are commonly found in personal care products such as deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, cosmetics, lipstick, skin care products, food additives, paints, lubricants, plastics and more.

Some of the chemicals present a significant health risk to people using these products, while others are being restricted for their impact on the environment.

Canada is the first country to set restrictions on some of these chemicals, a move that has been lauded by environmentalists in other countries. The regulations are a joint effort between Health Canada and Environment Canada.

Canadian Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq says, on the new restrictions, "The Chemicals Management Plan is an important part of our actions to protect Canadians' health. These substances have been carefully reviewed by our scientists and we have proposed several actions that will better protect the health of families and our environment."

Banning Carcinogens from Personal Care Products

The toxic effects of chemicals found in shampoo, makeup, deodorant, and other products has been hotly debated in recent years, but some of the chemicals examined in "Batch 2" of Canada's assessment were found to pose serious health hazards:

Isoprene is found in paint, tires, and some shoes. It is listed as a cancer risk and may damage the thymus gland.

Epichlorohydrin is commonly used in the making of plastics and resins. It reacts with water to form the carcinogenic compound 3-MCPD.

Thiourea is used in circuit boards, metal tarnish remover and polishing compounds. It is a carcinogen, a mutagen, and causes thyroid goiters.

C.I. pigment yellow 34 and C.I. pigment red 104 are used in paint and inks. These colours have been linked to cancer.

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A news release by Environment Canada specifies that, "Although Canadians' exposure to the five substances of concern to human health is very low, regulations are being proposed for four of these substances to prevent them from being used in the future without undergoing a new series of assessments. In addition, two of these substances will be added to the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist to prevent their future use in cosmetics." (Jan. 30, 2009)

Silicon-based D4, D5 in the Environment

The other three restricted chemicals from Batch 2 were selected for their hazard to the environment. Although TTBP, D4 and D5 are found in almost every personal care product on shelves today, risk assessments found that their concentrations in these products were low enough to be negligible – except for their impact on the environment, where they present a toxic risk to plants and wildlife, especially fish and other aquatic animals.

The silicone-based chemicals known as D4 and D5 are found in most shampoo, conditioner, antiperspirant and other personal care products as well as in textiles, paints, sealants, food additives, medical devices and some topical medical treatments.

Canada proposes to set a limit on the concentration of D4 and D5 allowed in products, to limit their release into the environment.

Follow-Up Report: Three Aluminum Salts

Another report issued on February 7, 2009 announced similar environmental risk findings on three aluminum salts: aluminum chloride, aluminum nitrate and aluminum sulphate. Aluminum salts are commonly found in deodorants, antiperspirants, and other personal care products and their risk factor in Alzheimer's and other memory disorders has been widely considered. Additional research is needed before regulations will be applied to these aluminum compounds.

The government of Canada is soliciting comments during a 60-day period on all of these chemicals and on prospective measures to reduce their dangerous impact on health and the environment.

Coplick, Colleen, "Oh Canada! Canada First to Ban Chemicals in Personal Care Products," SpaBeautifully.com, February 7, 2009.

Environment Canada News Release, "Government of Canada Protects the Environment and the Health of Canadians," www.ec.gc.ca, January 30, 2009.

Environment Canada News Release, "Backgrounder: Siloxanes D4, D5 and D6," www.ec.gc.ca, January 28, 2009.

Government of Canada, "Release of a draft Second Priority Substances List assessment report on three aluminum salts," www.chemicalsubstanceschemiques.gc.ca, February 7, 2009.

Mittelstaedt, Martin, "Personal care chemicals go on toxic list," Globe & Mail, February 2, 2009.