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Health Canada’s Ingredient Hotlist: Why are carcinogens allowed in cosmetics?

Last fall, thirteen chemicals or groups of chemicals were proposed to be added to Health Canada’s Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist. The list includes chemicals that are either restricted or banned for use in cosmetics in Canada. Many are carcinogens. Twelve of the chemicals identified for the Hotlist were proposed for prohibition and one for restricted use in cosmetics (“restricted use” means that the chemical can be used in cosmetics only for specified concentrations and applications). PCN thinks that all 13 chemicals listed in the proposal should be prohibited for use in cosmetics.

The chemical subjected to restricted use – hydroquinone – is a carcinogen. This approach for a chemical that is a carcinogen does not go far enough to protect human life. It also raises the all-too familiar question – why are there any carcinogens in cosmetics? With increasing evidence of toxic chemicals in cosmetics and other consumer products, you would think that it would be in the best interest of manufacturers to actively research safe alternatives.

One of the chemicals that the government has proposed prohibiting is BPA (bisphenol A), a potential hormone disruptor, that is used in cosmetics; its use in plastic containers and bottles aroused an enormous public outcry.

While there is general support for the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist, PCN is concerned that applying restrictions permits the continued use of toxic chemicals and is, therefore, inadequate. PCN wants the government to amend the Cosmetic Regulations under the Food and Drug Act to ensure that industry provides data to disclose any use of toxic chemicals and to demonstrate the safety of chemicals used in cosmetic products before releasing products to market.

Article by Sandra Madray, PCN Board Member



Health Canada List of Restricted and Prohibited Cosmetic Ingredients (The Cosmetic Ingredient “Hotlist”).

Canadian Environmental Law Association (Fe de Leon) and Chemical Sensitivities Manitoba (Sandra Madray) Response to List of Prohibited and Restricted Cosmetic Ingredients and Proposed Changes to the Cosmetic Ingredient ‘Hotlist’ posted as of October 23, 2009.

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