Embalming Agent Shell Game Puts U.S. Buyers at Risk

Consumers need formaldehyde education while shopping beauty aisle

Jan 14, 2010, 07:00 ET from Preservative-Free Cosmetics Alliance

PORTLAND, Ore., Jan. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- It is used to preserve cedar boards and dead bodies. It's one of the most reactive allergens known. It's been shown to cause and trigger asthma, destroy living cells, and cause cancer in laboratory animals. And you may be putting it on every morning.

Formaldehyde has several ways of slipping into the products we use daily, in everything from nail hardener to shampoo. Its use as a preservative in cosmetics is banned in Sweden and Japan, but U.S. regulators allow it in cosmetic products here.

A non-profit consumer group, the Preservative-Free Cosmetics Alliance (PFCA), www.preservativefreelife.org, warns shoppers to carefully read the product labels to identify formaldehyde in all its market forms. Many manufacturers call it by a different trade name, or fail to report whether it is used in the raw material of their ingredients.

The PFCA encourages all to carefully read labels. Formaldehyde is listed under alternative names including formalin, methanal, methyl aldehyde, methylene oxide, morbic acid, oxymethylene. It commonly is used in fragrances, fingernail polishes and hardeners, antiperspirants, makeup, bubble bath, bath oils, shampoos, creams, mouthwashes, deodorants.

Officials with the PFCA say U.S. regulators have not done the job of controlling big corporate cosmetic manufacturers, so it's up to consumers to know what's in their favorite products and shop smart.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits the use of formaldehyde, as a preservative agent, but has virtually no standards when makers say they are using it for another purpose in the same kind of products. For example, as a preservative in mouth wash, the limit is 0.1 percent. But, as an antibacterial in nail hardeners, manufacturers can use up to 5 percent – more than 25 percent higher than the FDA safety threshold.

To learn more about preservatives in cosmetics, go to www.preservativefreelife.org.


Mara Woloshin


SOURCE Preservative-Free Cosmetics Alliance