A new white paper released by UL Environment presents recommended voluntary best practices for the development of personal care products based on potential health risks of products in a growing global market. The report, entitled Assessing the Safety of Personal Care Products: Comparative Analysis of Health Risk Assessment Frameworks and Recommendations for Best Practices, takes into account the views of a range of stakeholders and marks consumer demand for more information on the safety of products as a major driving force for standards that go above and beyond the current industry regulations.
“The market for personal care products is expanding rapidly. At the same time, with the rapid increase in global access to information, more consumers are actively seeking information on the health impacts of the products they consume,” said Angela Griffiths, director of Advisory Services, UL Environment. “This is especially true for the personal care sector, where consumers are becoming increasingly interested in the products they and their families use every day. In light of this growing market and the corresponding demand for safety information by consumers, we see a need to understand and develop a ‘best practice’ for evaluating personal care product safety.”
What do industry stakeholders think?
UL Environment gathered online research and conducted phone interviews with representatives from NGOs, activists, retailers, brands and industry associations. Issues raised by the public and NGOs include ingredient disclosure and product labeling, chemicals of concern and alternatives, aggregate and cumulative exposure to chemicals, and inadequate or poorly enforced regulations.
When asked for his input on product safety and the product development process, Prospector contributor and expert personal care formulator George Deckner pointed out that, “the personal care industry has an excellent history of developing safe and effective products for consumers.”
But, according to study authors, consumers don’t seem to take that history into account and are widely confused about the safety of ingredients. Take the following excerpt from the study as an example:
A study by Globescan found that 82% of consumers feel that ingredient transparency is a “very important” or “important” factor in purchase decisions relating to beauty and personal care products. It also found that while there is increased use of databases like Skin Deep®, only 57% of consumers regularly check the list of ingredients in a product before purchasing. What is unknown is how many of the consumers who do check the ingredients list know how to interpret the information presented. This suggests that what consumers really want is the assurance that the product is safe, not necessarily an ingredient list.
Key Points of Agreement
All of those interviewed identified a need for ingredient alternatives assessment. The study cites this as “an emerging area in need of attention.” Sources said that an “agreed upon alternatives assessment process” would support a risk-based approach like the one proposed.
Interviewees from both NGOs and industry associations agreed that the availability of data on “key ingredients and alternatives and the integration of such data into safety authority assessments” is a top concern. And the fragmentation of the “regulatory and quasi-regulatory landscape” was another concern that was common to all parties.
The report also looks at five existing risk assessment frameworks and identifies areas of needed improvement, as well as practices that are effective across all frameworks. The resulting recommendations proposed by UL Environment cover seven categories and offer detailed best practices for use in evaluation of personal care products.
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