Formaldehyde is a known human cancer causing chemical according to data from the US FDA is present in 1 of 5 cosmetic products!
The US government and WHO have classified formaldehyde as carcinogenic when inhaled, and it is also a potential skin sensitizer and allergen.
You will never see formaldehyde mentioned on the ingredient label as cosmetic companies take an indirect route of adding formaldehyde in their cosmetic preparations and describe it as “preservative systems” which use one of several chemicals, called “formaldehyde releasers.” Only when water is added to it the formaldehyde is released.
Symptoms of exposure to Formaldehyde
When exposed to high levels of formaldehyde in cosmetic products, one can experience symptoms like sensory irritation, skin sensitization, breathing difficulties, asthma and cancer.
What do the experts say?
According to the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC), formaldehyde is a classified carcinogen and also the U.S. National Toxicology Program classified it as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,’ on the basis of the growing evidence in humans and evidence in animals (IARC 2004; NTP 2005).
Workers who are exposed to formaldehyde gas are often linked to nasal and nasopharyngeal cancers (IARC 2004; NTP 2005).
Even with all this evidence and classification of formaldehyde as a carcinogen by FDA, it was till recently used as a common ingredient in nail polishes.
European health agencies have limited the use of formaldehyde in cosmetics to 0.2%, and require that cosmetic products and personal care products containing it should be clearly labeled with the warning ‘contains formaldehyde’ if it’s concentration exceeds 0.05% (in the product. (SCCPNP 2002).
The cosmetic industry-funded agency Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel also recommends cosmetic products should not contain more than 0.2% formaldehyde, and does not consider formaldehyde to be safe in aerosol products (CIR 2006).
But even with all this awareness about formaldehyde in the U.S. there are absolutely no restrictions on the formaldehyde levels allowed in personal care products and cosmetics and very surprisingly no obligation to inform consumers that the products may contain a cancer causing ingredient called Formaldehyde.
One dreads to think what the situation about formaldehyde must be in Indian personal care products and cosmetics but we at foodnetindia are putting up this article to inform people about harmful chemicals in our personal care products and cosmetics which millions of Indians are ignorant about or just don’t care.