By  on November 26, 2008

PARIS — France’s health minister is planning a checkup for cosmetics to assess the health risks they pose for children and pregnant women, and may introduce a logo for products that are considered toxic to reproduction.

Roselyne Bachelot said during a conference focusing on chemicals, reproduction and child development Tuesday that she’s instructing government agencies to research the toxicity of certain chemical substances, particularly with respect to reproductive issues. AFSSAPS, or the French Health Products Safety Agency, will be called upon to evaluate the risks posed by cosmetics during pregnancy and for children, for example.

“I’m thinking notably of cosmetics distributed in maternity wards,” said Bachelot, according to a copy of her speech posted on a government Web site. She added she aims to make information on the potential risks of using products containing certain chemicals available to pregnant women and women planning to have children.

“I would like to study, in partnership with industry [bodies], the possibility of putting a logo on products that are toxic to reproduction, indicating they are not recommended for pregnant women and for young children,” she said.

The Fédération des Entreprises de la Beauté, a French trade association that represents the 300 companies with 97 percent of the beauty sector’s turnover, said it is willing to work with health authorities on the issues raised.

"Even if the cosmetics industry was not consulted on the subject of the measures announced by the health minister, Madame Roselyne Bachelot, it obviously is ready to collaborate with the health authorities, as it has done for decades," the association stated.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, France's secretary of state for ecology, who also spoke at the conference, said in a copy of her speech posted on a government Web site that REACH — the Registration, Evaluation andAuthorization of Chemicals regulation process currently underway — is a considerable advance in offering better protection against harmful chemical substances. She added that it is important to encourage people to read product labels.

"I'm surprised to see in a gynecologist's office that we find very little information on questions regarding environmental health," Kosciusko-Morizet said. "I'm thinking of cosmetics, in particular, of creams full of parabens with which pregnant women coat their skin."

Parabens and phthalates are among controversial chemicals linked to reproductive problems.

The FEBEA said the cosmetics industry uses only one phthalate— diethyl phthalate, which it says is not an endocrine disrupter, the term used for substances that interfere with hormones and cause cancers. It also said only four parabens are authorized for use within the industry, two of which, methylparaben and ethylparaben, it said have been formally established as not being endocrine disrupters.

"Propylparaben and butylparaben have been the subject of controversy, but recent data shows that they don't have effects on hormone concentration or on male reproductive organs," the association stated. "These preservatives are authorized for alimentary use and in concentrations far higher than in
cosmetics."

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