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Group: Products Have Ugly Side

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One in three personal-care products has at least one ingredient classified as a possible carcinogen. And one in 100 has ingredients certified by the U.S. government as known or probable causers of cancer.

That's according to a study of the labels of 7,500 hair, skin and tooth care products, makeup, baby oils and shaving aids by the Environmental Working Group, a research organization.

Examples cited include the hormone progesterone, a possible carcinogen, that appears in sunscreen, moisturizers and foundation makeup. And benzyl violet 4B, used as a colorant, is a known carcinogen. It is found in nail treatments, shampoos, conditioners and liquid hand soaps, among other products.

The toxicity of an ingredients was based on whether it could be ingested, like a lip balm, applied topically, like a lotion, or inhaled, like a powder, researcher Jane Houlihan says.

The EWG's Lauren Sucher says that because most ingredients are administered in tiny amounts, the public should be ''concerned, not alarmed.''

In a survey of 2,300 people, EWG found that the average adult uses nine such products each day, containing 126 unique chemical ingredients. One-quarter of all women use at least 15 products a day.

Under the law, the Food and Drug Administration cannot require companies to safety-test personal-care products before they are sold. The agency can act only if it can prove in court that a product can injure users or is improperly labeled.

Irene Malbin of the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrance Association says: ''The cosmetics industry has supported an independent panel of world-class medical and scientific experts -- the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel -- for almost 30 years. The bottom line for American consumers is that they can have complete confidence that the products they use are safe.''

The EWG report, which includes a searchable index of all 7,500 products and their ingredients, is available online at

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.


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