Phthalates, a group of chemicals found in many cosmetics and personal care products, have been used for approximately 50 years. In the past year, however, the $32 billion cosmetic industry has been put on the defensive with respect to the use of these chemicals as a result of animal testing, regulatory restrictions imposed by the European Union (EU), and an ongoing investigation by the FDA. Phthalates can be found in hair sprays, deodorants, shampoos, nail polish, perfumes, body washes, and skin creams. They make nail polish chip resistant and fragrances longer lasting. Although industry spokespersons maintain that there is no reliable evidence that the chemicals pose any risk to humans, recent studies have raised concerns.
Rats exposed to phthalates have a higher rate of birth defects related to the male reproductive system and other studies suggest possible links to early puberty in girls and decreased sperm counts in men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that phthalate levels in young women were much higher than average. The EU has banned two phthalates from cosmetics sold on the continent and at least two companies (Revlon and Proctor & Gamble) have removed those particular chemicals from products sold in the United States.
As a result of these concerns and pressure from groups such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the FDA has been conducting its own investigation with respect to the safety of these chemicals. To date, however, the agency has not made any public announcement with respect to any specific findings.