SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  7 November 2013
Volume 14 Issue 11

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What Do We Know About the Ecological Risk of Personal Care Product Ingredients?

Paul C. DeLeo, American Cleaning Institute

For much of the past decade, there has been a lot of attention given broadly to those “chemicals and contaminants of emerging concern (CECs)” for which pre-market governmental review of ecological safety is not required in most countries – essentially, everything except pesticides and legacy contaminants. Front and center among emerging chemicals are the ill-defined “pharmaceuticals and personal care products,” with the lion’s share of the focus on (bioactive) human and veterinary pharmaceutical ingredients.  Consequently, we wanted to direct the spotlight, for the third year running, on the state-of-the-science regarding the ecological risk of personal care product (PCP) ingredients.

poster sessions

The term "personal care products" commonly refers to a wide variety of functionally diverse consumer products found in health and beauty departments of drug and department stores.  However, one may take an even broader view to include home care products like cleaning products due to the similarity in chemistries used. Some products will be regulated as “cosmetics” under the U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (e.g., skin moisturizers, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, eye and facial makeup preparations, shampoos, permanent waves, hair colors, toothpastes and deodorants), while others are regulated as “drugs” because they function as such. In the U.S., for example, the Food and Drug Administration will conduct a pre-market review of human safety and efficacy, but there is no such government authority for cosmetics. In either case, little review by the government, if any, of potential ecological risks occurs.  As such, it is incumbent on ingredient suppliers and product formulators to prepare their own internal assessments, but often such information does not make it into the public domain because such investments in safety data may impart a competitive advantage on the supplier or user.

Regulators and product manufacturers have long acknowledged that the greatest ecological risk of PCP ingredients come from their use-phase down-the-drain disposal to freshwater aquatic environments – generally streams receiving treated effluent from municipal wastewater treatment facilities.  Therefore, potential impacts to freshwater streams are largely the focus of a session at the SETAC North America 34th Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday, 20 November, in room Washington B. And while the term “emerging contaminants” suggests new chemistries with little data, the reality is that a number of high-volume PCP ingredients are extremely data rich, which permits the use of advanced risk assessment tools to evaluate the ecological safety of the use of those chemicals. This session will emphasize the use of case studies for data-rich chemicals in the application of advanced techniques. The session will begin with an examination of the antimicrobial agent triclosan, for which there is a substantial monitoring database, as the test chemical in an evaluation of the ability of several environmental exposure models to predict measured concentrations. On the hazard side, a fresh review of the available chronic toxicity data for triclosan will be discussed in the derivation of a species sensitivity distribution (SSD). And thirdly, a report of the bioconcentration and intracellular distribution of triclosan, an ionizable compound, within the various internal organelles of algae as a function of pH will be presented. Immediately following, a study to determine the level of exposure of microplastics in UK rivers will be presented.

poster sessions

The second half of the session will begin with a description of a global environmental exposure model for predicting river water concentrations of down-the-drain chemicals, which is particularly applicable for emerging economies where data to develop site-specific models are typically hard to come by. Next, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will report on a recently completed risk assessment of the widely used fragrance ingredient HHCB.  The session will conclude with a two-part talk summarizing a recent multi-year review of environmental safety data for the major high-volume surfactant classes used in home and personal care products in North America (i.e., long-chain alcohols; alkyl-ethoxylates, -sulfates, -ethoxysulfates; and linear alkylbenzene sulfontes ) developed over the past five decades at a cost of more than $30 million.

The session, "What Do We Know About the Ecological Risk of Personal Care Product Ingredients," is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 November, in room Washington B.

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