BfR rules microparticle health risk as 'unlikely'

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

BfR rules microparticle health risk as 'unlikely'

Related tags Cosmetics Skin

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has looked into whether a dermal or accidental oral uptake of PE-micro plastic particles from cosmetics pose, and concluded a health risk unlikely. 

Micro plastic particles are used in cosmetic products like scrubs, shower gels or toothpastes and is generally recruited for its' gentle cleaning action on the skin or teeth.

Such products contain particles comprised of polyethylene (PE) from 0.1 to 1 millimeters (mm) in size. 

Their use in cosmetics has been in the headlines of late due to their potential environmental impact. Some US and European brands have even chosen to completely wipe out the particles from their lines.

Risk Assessment

According to the BfR, recent literature collected from DIMDIs databases, ISI / Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, Science Direct, NTP, Litdoc, and Chemici revealed that only in very rare cases do cosmetics contain micro plastic particles.

Polymer polyethylene has an estimated market share of 80%. Usually in concentrations of 2 - 3%. 

For the production of micro plastic particles for cosmetic products is used for the predominant part of polyethylene. Polyethylene fulfills multiple functions in cosmetic products and is not only because of its abrasive nature, but is also used as a bonding agent or stabilizer for emulsions.

The institute specifically assessed whether the dermal or oral intake of the particles, which are used in cosmetic peelings, shower gels and toothpaste, could pose a health risk.

BfR concluded that a dermal uptake of microparticles is unlikely when used on healthy skin. It concluded that it is also improbable that accidentally swallowed particles in toothpaste would result in any toxicological significant amounts of ethylene in the gastrointestinal tract.

Related topics Regulation & Safety Skin Care

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