If you’re wondering why this is allowed to happen just know that as of 2009, the EU has banned 1328 chemicals from being put into their personal care items. In contrast, as of 2018, the US has banned only 30. Its cheaper for companies to use these ingredients. It always comes back to money. Now if you’re saying to yourself, “no way would the U.S. be that behind,” we totally understand because we did too
Canadian cosmetics regulations, like European Union regulations, are much stricter than those in the United States.
Health Canada, the federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, regularly reviews the safety of cosmetic ingredients and prohibits or restricts the use of ingredients that present health risks, according to their website. The Canadian government regularly updates a Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist that includes hundreds of chemicals and contaminants prohibited and restricted from use in cosmetics such as formaldehyde, triclosan, selenium, nitrosamines and 1,4-dioxane — all of which are allowed in U.S. products.
In addition, cosmetic manufacturers, by law, are prohibited from selling cosmetics that contain ingredients that present a hazard to the health of Canadians; must disclose all cosmetic ingredients to Health Canada; and are required to register their products. Labeling requirements that went into effect in 2006 require ingredient lists to appear on all cosmetic product labels. Increased disclosure is making choosing safe products easier for Canadian consumers.
What about Europe?
The European Union, now 28 countries strong, has more stringent and protective laws for cosmetics than the United States. The hazard-based, precautionary approach of the EU acknowledges that chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects simply don’t belong in cosmetics – regardless of the concentration of the chemical being used.
The United States has much to learn from the EU example. The EU Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) was adopted in January 2003 and most recently revised in 2013. The EU law bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects. In comparison, the U.S. FDA has only banned or restricted 11 chemicals from cosmetics. Unlike the United States, EU law requires pre-market safety assessments of cosmetics, mandatory registration of cosmetic products, government authorization for the use of nanomaterials and prohibits animal testing for cosmetic purposes.
Back to understanding “Fragrance”
Many products list “fragrance” on the label, but very few name the specific ingredients that make up a “fragrance.” This lack of disclosure prevents consumers from knowing the full list of ingredients in their products. While most fragrance chemicals are not disclosed, we do know that some are linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies and sensitivities. Clearly, there is a need for stronger regulations, more research, and greater transparency.
FOUND IN: Most personal care products including sunscreen, shampoo, soap, body wash, deodorant, body lotion, makeup, facial cream, skin toner, serums, exfoliating scrubs and perfume.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON THE LABEL: Fragrance, perfume, parfum, essential oil blend, aroma.
WHAT IS FRAGRANCE? Fragrance is defined by the FDA as a combination of chemicals that gives each perfume or cologne (including those used in other products) its distinct scent. Fragrance ingredients may be derived from petroleum or natural raw materials. Companies that manufacture perfume or cologne purchase fragrance mixtures from fragrance houses (companies that specialize in developing fragrances) to develop their own proprietary blends. In addition to “scent” chemicals that create the fragrance, perfumes and colognes also contain solvents, stabilizers, UV-absorbers, preservatives, and dyes. MORE…
HEALTH CONCERNS: The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds. Of these 3,059 ingredients, some have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.
A 2016 study assessed self-reported health effects from fragrance. This survey of a random sample of US residents found that 99.1% of participants are exposed to fragranced products at least once a week from their own use, others’ use, or both. Participants also reported an extensive list of health effects experienced when exposed to fragrance ranging from migraines and asthma to gastrointestinal problems and cardiovascular problems. The findings showed that a high percentage of the participants did not know of the chemicals included in fragrance and would not continue to use a fragranced product if they had previously known it emitted pollutants.
Acetaldehyde: Acetaldehyde adversely affects kidneys and the reproductive, nervous and respiratory systems. This chemical is listed as known or suspected to cause cancer in California’s Proposition 65. Both the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program classify acetaldehyde as potentially carcinogenic to humans., 
Benzophenone: Benzophenone is linked to endocrine disruption and organ system toxicity, and experimental studies suggest benzophenone may lead to several kinds of tumors. Derivatives of benzophenone, such as benzophenone-1 (BP-1) and oxybenzone (BP-3), are potential endocrine disruptors.Benzophenone is listed as a possible human carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65.MORE…
VULNERABLE POPULATIONS: All, especially pregnant women, infants
REGULATIONS: Current laws do not provide the FDA with the authority to require disclosure or public safety of fragrance ingredients. In the U.S., companies are required to list ingredients on the label; however, this regulation excludes the individual constituents of fragrance in order to preserve fragrance trade secrets. This sustains a loophole that leads to disclosure gaps.
The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) develop and set voluntary standards for chemicals in the “fragrance” component of products. The US, Canada, and Europe rely on IFRA and RIFM to identify ingredients for use in fragrance. In effect, this means the international Fragrance industry is self-regulating.
HOW TO AVOID: Read labels and avoid products when no information is given other than “fragrance”.