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Fragrance allergen levels in baby bathwater of ‘special concern’, say scientists

By Katie Bird , 22-Jul-2009

The levels of fragrance allergens in baby bathwater are of ‘special concern’ according to Spanish researchers who have developed a method to test the presence of the compounds.

Fifteen of the most common fragrance allergens were found to be present in two or more of the samples, some at ‘high concentrations’, according to the study published in the current issue of Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry.

The fifteen substances are part of a list of twenty-six in the Cosmetics Directive that are thought to pose potential contact allergy risks.

 

Under the Directive products containing these ingredients in concentrations higher than 0.01 per cent in rinse off products and 0.001 per cent in leave on products must have the presence of such potential allergens marked on their label.

 

According to the researchers, led by Maria Llompart at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, some of these ingredients were found in ‘high concentrations’ of more than 100ng per millilitre in baby bathwater samples.

 

As babies can spend a relatively long time playing in the bathwater and exposure pathways are multiple (water is often ingested whether intentional or not), Llompart and her team said the presence and levels of the fragrance allergens were a matter of concern.

 

Llompart, who is an analytical chemist, told CosmeticsDesign that she thought the cosmetics industry should try to limit the use and concentration of the chemicals in baby products.

 

Taking into account the opinion and the research of other specialists in this matter, I think that the EU Directive should be more restrictive regarding the use of these and other cosmetic ingredients, especially in the products devoted to babies and children,” she said.

 

Baby products undergo stricter safety tests

 

However, according the UK cosmetics trade association CTPA, all cosmetics products must undergo a safety assessment before being placed on the market and a more detailed version is necessary for products designed to be used for children under three.

 

“CTPA takes exception to the rather alarming statements made in the introduction and discussion with regard to babies’ skin, the inference that ingredients in baby products are harsh, the implication that cosmetic products are not sufficiently assessed for safety and the levels of substances detected in bath water should be of concern,” said Emma Meredith from the CTPA.

 

Nevertheless, the trade association said the study was of academic interest from the point of view of analytical chemistry and the testing method.

 

The team used a solid phase micro-extraction technique followed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, developed specifically to determine the presence and concentrations of these fragrance allergens in water.

 

Samples were collected and put into headspace vials which are often used in perfumery to catch the odorous compounds as they are given off. Fibres were then either inserted into the vial or into the sample itself so that they could absorb the ingredients present, and these were later analysed.

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