Photo: Mitchell Shapiro/Flickr cc

The regulation of antimicrobial substances differs when used in biocidal products compared to cosmetic products, shows a new study led by researchers at the Department of Environmental Science published recently in the journal Emerging Contaminants. Such inconsistencies could potentially endanger both the environment and human health.

The researchers performed a systematic comparison using document analysis focusing on aims, scope, information requirements, and risk assessment procedures for biocidal active substances and cosmetic preservatives. They found that while producing an environmental risk assessment is mandatory for antimicrobial substances used in biocidal products, for e.g. disinfectants, no such requirement is made when the same chemicals are used as cosmetic preservatives. This means that a substance not approved for use in biocidal products due to its hazardous environmental properties can still be approved as a cosmetic preservative despite the risk of cosmetic ingredients being emitted to the environment via wastewater. At the same time, the use of a cosmetic preservative may remain approved despite evidence of risk to human health as shown in risk assessments for biocidal use, unless a re-evaluation is specifically mandated by the European Commission.

Diana Kättström, Department of Environmental Science. Photo: Svetlana Lansberg

Diana Kättström, PhD student at the Department of Environmental Science, who led the study believes that, the “one substance, one assessment” approach, which was put forward by the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability could improve the situation for many substances, including antimicrobials. However, to fully address the described inconsistency, a full revision of Cosmetic Regulations is necessary.

”Excluding antimicrobial substances used as cosmetic preservatives from environmental risk assessment requirements compromises the aim of protecting the environment set by several EU regulations. We, therefore, recommend full revision and amendment of the Cosmetic Products Regulation, ” says Kättström.

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