Friends of the Earth – Australia (FOE-Aus) recently released a new report examining the presence of nanoparticles in cosmetics produced by such well known companies as Revlon, Max Factor, and The Body Shop.
In the press release accompanying the report, FOE-Aus noted that the labeling on cosmetics containers didn’t reflect the presence of nanoparticles in the product:
“Of the ten products we surveyed, only one listed the use of nano-ingredients on the label. The government’s failure to require mandatory labeling of nano-ingredients denies women the capacity to make an informed choice about what they put on their skin.”
While this may be a legitimate complaint for the Australian regulatory agencies to consider, FOE-Aus loses much of its credibility by suggesting that the "big cosmetics companies" and nanotechnologies companies view Australian women as "guinea pigs" and by calling for
a stop to sales of cosmetics that contain nano-ingredients, until the safety science catches up, and new laws are introduced to make companies test the safety of their products and to label all nano-ingredients,” said Ms Miller. “We are also calling for public participation in decision making about nanotechnology management”.
Considering the pace of legislation through any parliamentary body tends to be a slow process and that the issuance of regulations affecting labeling of products by the appropriate agencies would also be a long process, FOE-Aus is effectively calling for a moritorium on nano-based cosmetics for an unknown period of time.
It would be one thing if the report released by FOE-Aus supported these claims and demands. However, the report supports nothing at all.
As the report notes under the heading, "A General Note on the Study’s Limitations":
This study was conducted with a limited budget and should be considered to be preliminary rather than comprehensive. Only a small number of observations of each sample were made. . . . While observations in this study of certain particle sizes does indicate that they were present in the cosmetics sampled, observations may not be statistically representative of the full sample. (Emphasis added.)
In another section of the report, we find this statement:
. . . the particulates shown are those observed via SEM [ Scanning Electron Microscopy] and may not be representative of the average particle in the analysis. Such statistical analyses are time consuming to perform . . . and furthermore require human assisted particle identification to insure correct results. (Emphasis added)
According to anarticle in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Cosmetic Trade Association has dismissed the report. Considering the limited number of products that were tested – just walk into the "Beauty Aids" section of any CVS and there will be more cosmetics than anyone can count – and the limitations of the testing procedures that were done on them, the report that FOE-Aus presents is a weak base on which to make broad assertions about the safety of those products or to demand the shut down of an industry.