This report from the Auditor General of Canada came out in 2016. Nothing has changed as far as I have seen, and I keep my eyes open for these kinds of things.
“The Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) conducts independent audits and studies that provide objective information, advice, and assurance to Parliament, territorial legislatures, boards of crown corporations, government, and Canadians.”
Here’s a short video, followed by the transcript, more from the report, and some relevant bits from a follow up by Health Canada:
Chemicals in Consumer Products and Cosmetics
“This report is important because there are 4,300 different chemicals available in the Canadian marketplace. Some of those chemicals are found in consumer products and cosmetics that you and I may use on a daily basis. It’s important for Canadians to understand that these products are not tested prior to being put into the marketplace. And so we looked at Health Canada’s work to protect us from the potential negative effects of these chemicals.
We found that Health Canada doesn’t adequately assess the risk of products that you might order online through e-commerce, nor do they properly assess the risks of potential counterfeit products. We also found that Health Canada does not test products before they’re placed on the market, in particular for things like microbial contamination or for contamination of heavy metals.
We also found that marketing terms such as “hypoallergenic” or “fragrance-free”, there are actually no standards associated with those terms. And finally, we found that, in the case of cosmetics, if there is an incident, there is no obligation on the part of the manufacturer nor the retailer to advise Health Canada of that incident, as compared to consumer products where there is an obligation.”
2016 Spring Reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
Report 3 — Chemicals in Consumer Products and Cosmetics
“The chemical components of cosmetic ingredients characterized as “parfum,” “aroma,” “fragrance,” or “flavour,” which might contain chemicals of concern, are not required to be disclosed to Health Canada or consumers.
In contrast to consumer products, where industry is required to report health and safety incidents to Health Canada, there is no legal requirement to report such incidents related to cosmetic products.”
Audit at a Glance
What we concluded
We concluded that Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Program could not fully assure Canadians that its post-market oversight activities were working to protect the public by addressing or preventing dangers to human health or safety posed by chemicals of concern in household consumer products and cosmetics.
The Department does not regularly test cosmetic products to verify the accuracy of product labels or to check for the presence of prohibited substances, microbial contaminants, and heavy metals.
The chemical components of cosmetic ingredients characterized as “parfum,” “aroma,” “fragrance,” or “flavour,” which might contain chemicals of concern, are not required to be disclosed to Health Canada or consumers.
In contrast to consumer products, where industry is required to report health and safety incidents to Health Canada, there is no legal requirement to report such incidents related to cosmetic products.
These findings are important because the information gaps we identified limited Health Canada’s ability to prevent, detect, assess, and respond to potentially important threats to human health and safety posed by consumer products and cosmetics. They also mean that consumers have less information upon which to make informed choices to protect their health and safety.
To improve Health Canada’s ability to detect and assess risks, and to provide information to consumers so that they can make informed choices, the Department should:
– do product testing to determine the extent to which cosmetics include prohibited and/or unsafe concentrations of substances under the labels “fragrance,” “parfum,” “aroma,” or “flavour”;
– consider options to encourage manufacturers to provide the Department, on a confidential basis, with the complete list and concentrations of substances that comprise ingredients listed under these terms; and
– inform consumers that marketing terms such as “hypoallergenic,” “preservative-free,” “fragrance-free,” and “unscented” should not be confused with health and safety claims.
Health Canada had not measured whether its Consumer Product Safety Program was achieving expected results
Health Canada should ensure that it collects the data needed to answer fundamental questions about Consumer Product Safety Program effectiveness, including whether:
– industry compliance with key regulatory requirements is improving, declining, or staying the same;
-the Program’s oversight approach is working to reduce adverse health incidents; and
-the Program’s oversight approach is working to address or prevent dangers to health and safety from chemicals of concern in consumer products and cosmetics.
Entity Responses to Recommendations
The audited entity agrees with our recommendations, and has responded (see List of Recommendations).
3.42 Disclosure of ingredients in cosmetics. The Cosmetic Regulations do not require industry to disclose the chemical components of cosmetic ingredients characterized as “parfum,” “aroma,” “fragrance,” or “flavour” to Health Canada or to consumers on product labels. This is also the case in other jurisdictions, including the United States and the European Union. The rationale is that these mixtures are considered trade secrets.
3.43 Many chemicals commonly found in fragrance can trigger allergies and asthma, and have been linked to cancer. Given that industry does not disclose the specific chemical composition and concentration in “parfum,” “aroma,” “fragrance,” or “flavour,” and that the Department does not regularly test for prohibited or restricted ingredients in cosmetics, Health Canada cannot assure consumers that these products comply with the Food and Drugs Act and are safe.
3.44 In addition, Health Canada told us that marketing terms such as “hypoallergenic,” “preservative-free,” “fragrance-free,” and “unscented” fall outside its mandate unless a product makes a claim that affects health and safety, in which case the Department has the ability to take action. However, in our view, these terms suggest health and safety benefits and may be misleading. For example, a product labelled “fragrance-free” or “unscented” may contain chemicals to mask the scent.
3.45 Recommendation. To improve Health Canada’s ability to detect and assess risks, and to provide information to consumers so that they can make informed choices, the Department should
- do product testing to determine the extent to which cosmetics include prohibited and/or unsafe concentrations of substances under the labels “fragrance,” “parfum,” “aroma,” or “flavour”;
- consider options to encourage manufacturers to provide the Department, on a confidential basis, with the complete list and concentrations of substances that comprise ingredients listed under these terms; and
- inform consumers that marketing terms such as “hypoallergenic,” “preservative-free,” “fragrance-free,” and “unscented” should not be confused with health and safety claims.
The Department’s response. Agreed. The Department’s Cyclical Enforcement (CE) plan for the testing of cosmetics is being reviewed and will include the testing of products that use the terms “fragrance,” “parfum,” “aroma,” or “flavour,” to determine the presence of prohibited or restricted substances that may be included as an ingredient in the product formulation.
Health Canada will consider options to encourage manufacturers to disclose, on a confidential basis, the complete list and concentrations of substances that comprise ingredients listed under the umbrella terms referenced in the recommendation. The results of testing under the aforementioned CE plan will inform options for analysis.
As part of Health Canada’s ongoing outreach plan for consumer products and cosmetics, consumers and retailers will be informed that marketing terms such as those referenced are not necessarily an indicator that a product has improved health benefits, and that it is up to the consumer to make informed choices about the purchase and use of products. Planned consumer outreach activities include social media, web page updates, and stakeholder outreach.
Have you seen any such outreach from Health Canada?
Note also that at the time this report was made, essential oils and natural fragrances had not reached mass distribution like they have now. It is no longer appropriate to distinguish between artificial or synthetic fragrance chemicals and other fragrances, since we are seeing so many people experience the same adverse health effects from them as we see from conventional fragranced products.
Essential oils are NOT a safe or appropriate substitute. They are the light cigarette version of fragrance.
Natural, pure, and organic fragrances still emit hazardous VOCs and cause adverse health effects (from the VOCs, the pollutants they create when interacting with everyday ozone, and/or from potential medicinal effects on people who need to avoid those kinds of medicinal effects) in far too many people (like the ones who were first alerting y’all about synthetic fragrances being a problem, and the growing numbers of people who have MCAS/MCAD).
Essential oils, even the pure, natural, and organic ones, have become accessibility barriers, preventing people from being able to shop for food (at health food stores and other places that use, diffuse, or sell them), receive medical and dental care, go to school, (etc) because the oils are being used and diffused everywhere under the erroneous impression that they are benign and harmless, when they are not.
The hordes of “wellness advocates” and others in the MLM EO industry have been spreading massive amounts of misinformation about their benefits and uses, (and nothing about the cautions or harms because they are not taught those, because they’d sell a lot less product if people knew), and this has spread to other companies wanting to get on the bandwagon.
“Essential oils, widely used in society, emit numerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of these VOCs are considered as potentially hazardous under federal regulations. However, essential oils are exempt from disclosure of their ingredients on their label. Thus, the public may lack information on emissions and potential hazards from essential oils.
This study examined VOCs emitted from a range of commercial essential oils, including tea tree oils, lavender oils, eucalyptus oils, and other individual oils and mixtures of oils. Using headspace gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS), the study analyzed 24 commercial essential oils, including 12 with claims of being “natural” or related terms, such as organic, 100% pure, or plant-based.
Results identified 595 VOCs emitted from the 24 essential oils, representing 188 different VOCs. The most common VOCs emitted were alpha-pinene, limonene, acetone, linalool, alpha-phellandrene, beta-myrcene, and camphene.
Among the 589 VOCs identified, 124 VOCs, representing 33 different VOCs, are classified as potentially hazardous.
All natural and regular essential oils emitted one or more potentially hazardous VOCs, such as acetaldehyde, acetone, and ethanol. Toluene was also found in 50% of essential oils.
Moreover, for the prevalent VOCs classified as potentially hazardous, no significant difference was found between regular and natural essential oils. This study provides insights and information about emissions of commercial essential oils that can be useful for public awareness and risk reduction.”
“Overall, 34.7 % of the population reported one or more types of adverse health effects from exposure to one or more types of fragranced products. …
Further, 22.7 % have been prevented from going to some place because they would be exposed to a fragranced product that would make them sick.
Significantly, 15.1 % of the general population reported that exposure to fragranced products in their work environment has caused them to become sick, lose workdays, or lose a job.
Also, 20.2 % of the population reported that if they enter a business, and smell air fresheners or some fragranced product, they want to leave as quickly as possible.”
72.6 % were not aware that even so-called natural, green, and organic fragranced products typically emit hazardous air pollutants.”
It’s good for you! It’s good for me!