The Danish consumer council says that the preservative PHMB has been banned in personal care products since January 2015, as it is suspected to be cancer-causing, allergenic, and detrimental to the environment.
Despite this, THINK says that since August 2015 it has found 36 products on Danish shelves which contain the substance and this has been reported to the authorities.
“When we still encounter this substance in so many products a year after the ban was implemented, we question whether it is taken seriously by the manufacturers and retailers,” says Claus Jørgensen, Senior Project Manager at The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.
In the Danish trade organization SPT, which among others represent the manufacturers of personal care products, CEO Hanna Løyche does not find the suspected cancer-causing PHMB to be illegal.
“We do not share the interpretation that PHMB has been illegal in cosmetic products since January 2015, where the classification of PHMB as a CMR-substance was applied. CMR-substances may be used in cosmetic products if a risk assessment shows that the use of the substance is safe,” she states.
Løyche refers to the latest assessment of PHMB from the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, which concludes that a safe level of PHMB under 0.3% is a possibility.
SPT’s assessment that PHMB is legal stands in contrast to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) view, which on its website says: “The substance has been illegal to use in cosmetic products since that date [1 January 2015].”
According to EPA functional manager in the Chemical Inspection Service, Dorte Balle Hermansen, the authorities are surprised by how SPT and manufacturers approach this issue, explaining that expectations were that products containing PHMB would be withdrawn from the market; but that not all manufacturers may be recognising the ban.
“The EPA can ascertain that there still are a number of products with PHMB on the Danish market and that these products will not be removed voluntarily. Consequently, The Danish Environmental Protection Agency will decide on these products very early in the new year,” writes Hermansen.