Chemicals - external commentaries old

1. Are “chemical-free” products safer than products that contain chemicals?

British Association of Dermatologists commentary
… There can be no “chemical-free” products because chemicals are in everything. Therefore it is best to use the products that you like and that do not cause any reactions to your skin.

Sense About Science commentary
… The chemical reality is that you cannot live a chemical-free life, because everything is made up of chemicals. Chemicals are substances and chemistry is the science of substances. Everything is made of chemicals.

UK Cleaning Products Industry Association (UKCPI) commentary
… Everything on Earth, whether it’s called natural, organic or man-made is made of chemicals. There is nothing else ingredients can consist of. Therefore any attempt to claim that products can be ‘chemical free’ is just plain nonsense. It is a bit like the Alchemist in times past claiming that lead can be turned into gold – impossible!

2. Are products made from natural ingredients safer than those made with man-made ingredients?

International Fragrance Association (IFRA) UK commentary
… The popular perception that man-made chemicals are more harmful than natural chemicals is both wrong and misleading. Whether a chemical is produced synthetically or by nature has no impact on how safe or healthy it is - for example many plants produce toxic defence mechanisms to ensure their survival in the natural environment. These mechanisms are often lethal to humans and animals despite being completely natural.

IFRA UK considers that there are generally no safety benefits to be gained from cosmetic products made from naturals versus those made from man-made ingredients. Both natural ingredients and man-made ingredients are essential to the creative perfumer. All fragrance ingredients, natural or synthetic, must be tested to ensure they are safe to use; these tests are based on sound science. Natural ingredients cannot automatically be considered safe solely based on their sources.

The companies that are part of the IFRA UK comply to ‘The IFRA code of practice’ which was introduced by the International Fragrance Association to ensure that products are safe to use and don’t damage the environment.

Sense About Science commentary
… In terms of chemical safety, “industrial”, “synthetic”, “artificial” and “man-made” do not necessarily mean “damaging” and “natural” does not necessarily mean better. Henna tattoos can cause allergic reactions, untreated water can kill, and rotting fruit contains some toxins that can make people very ill. A chemical can’t simply be classified as “dangerous” or “safe”: it always depends on the amount, or dose, received. In fact, natural products are inherently variable. A plant that does one thing in March may do another in September as its composition changes (this is why the same variety of fruit is sometimes sweet and sometimes sour). Not surprisingly, people prefer to rely on synthetic versions of chemicals when they need reliability, such as for contraception or disinfection.

3. Are products made from natural or organic ingredients better for the environment than those made from man-made ingredients?

UK Cleaning Products Industry Association (UKCPI) commentary
… The inherent properties of an ingredient are not determined by its name or source but by its physical, chemical and toxicological properties. Putting aside the rafts of Regulations controlling the safety of consumer products, no responsible company would have a sustainable and profitable long term business if it did not take human and environmental safety as its absolute highest priority.

4. Are products that contain fewer ingredients better for your health than those with greater numbers of ingredients in?

British Association of Dermatologists commentary
… If you have never had a reaction to the products you use there is no reason to change them. Each ingredient is actually there for a reason. However, if you have skin allergies and are looking to purchase a new product which you have not used before, you may prefer to go for one with fewer ingredients as there is less chance that you will react to an ingredient.

Sense About Science commentary
… We have always been exposed to many different substances because nature is a cocktail of chemicals.

5. Can ingredients from everyday products build up in the body over time to reach unsafe levels?

British Association of Dermatologists commentary
… It is unlikely that ingredients from everyday products will build up in the body to reach unsafe levels. However, products purchased illegally from the black market could be dangerous.

Sense About Science commentary
… There are now frequent scares about the presence of a variety of man-made chemicals in our bodies, particularly in relation to press releases from campaign groups testing the excretions and tissue of celebrities and other groups. Out of context, these announcements sound alarming, but there are three vital pieces of information in such discussions:

a) The concentration of the chemical: we can detect some chemicals in the body in parts per billion. A part per billion is equivalent to one grain of sugar in an Olympic sized swimming pool; or one blade of grass on a football pitch.

b) The fact that our bodies are able to process and excrete harmful substances.

c) The presence of a chemical in our bodies does not mean it is doing harm. Our bodies contain traces of many substances that we are in contact with, natural and synthetic, some beneficial and some harmful at certain levels.

6. Can ingredients in everyday products be more easily absorbed through a child’s skin than an adult’s skin, with greater risk of harm?

British Association of Dermatologists commentary
… Everyday products are not necessarily more easily absorbed into a child’s skin compared to an adult’s. But, because a child has a larger surface area to body weight ratio, products intended for children need special consideration in assessing their safety.