New Report: Access to Information Powers Safer Chemicals Innovation

Newly released chemical hazard assessments on 16 common preservatives used in personal care products

May 24, 2017
Amy Morse, 603-568-5541, amorse@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. –  May 24, 2017) A new report from Environmental Defense Fund reveals key barriers to innovation in an important, but challenging class of chemistry – preservatives. Data gaps were identified among all 16 preservatives evaluated – including around endocrine activity and neurotoxicity. Common hazards among the preservatives included skin allergies and aquatic toxicity. The report finds that to meet increasing consumer and retailer demand for safer chemicals, health and safety information must be more widely shared along the supply chain. 

Market demand for safer chemicals is growing - 87% of consumers globally seek out beauty and personal care products made without harsh or toxic chemicals. Major retailers including Walmart Target, and CVS have released chemicals policies that aim to drive chemicals of concern off their shelves and ensure consumer access to safer chemicals and products. Notably, all three retailers have targeted certain preservatives for removal from products including baby and beauty and personal care products. Smart innovation is necessary to ensure that products are adequately preserved against problematic microbial contamination while also satisfying demands for safer chemicals.

Zach Freeze, Senior Director of Sustainability at Walmart notes, “Walmart works with suppliers and organizations like EDF to advance sustainable chemistry –encouraging reducing, restricting and eliminating priority chemicals in products. EDF’s baseline information on preservatives can help companies make more informed choices and deliver more sustainable innovations.”

Companies face challenges in designing and delivering products to meet demand, in part because of lack of access to comprehensive health and safety information on chemicals.

Dr. Nicole Acevedo, Principal Scientist at Beautycounter notes, “There is no doubt that consumers are actively seeking products that contain the safest possible ingredients, and that the need for more comprehensive information on chemical hazards is critical to putting safer products on the market. As a company dedicated to driving this cause, Beautycounter has seen phenomenal business growth since our launch four years ago, which is further evidence of consumers’ appetite for increased education, advocacy, and safer products.”

EDF launched the Preservatives Innovation Project (PIP) to better understand the barriers and enablers to safer chemicals innovation in the marketplace, with particular interest in exploring how a consistent toxicological evaluation of a chemical class can guide innovation and data development via the identification of hazard hotspots and data gaps.

The report finds that without transparent, structured sets of baseline health and safety information, safer chemical innovation will remain difficult. Shared hazard assessment information through a new “Chemicals Assessment Clearinghouse” would accelerate innovation.

EDF Senior Scientist Dr. Jennifer McPartland notes, “A Chemicals Assessment Clearinghouse is a strategic intervention that would power smart, safer chemical innovation by academics, entrepreneurs and others and ultimately lead to a more healthful, product positive marketplace.”

Full Report Available: www.edf.org/preservatives

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