Endocrine Disruptors in Soap

Sydney and Beruk’s post is the second in a series from a small survey of UMass students’ favorite personal care products and the endocrine disruptors found within the top brand in each category. The project was part of the co-listed spring course, Marketing/Biology 597.

Sydeny Allison-5451

Endocrine Disruptors in Soap

Do you ever look at the ingredients in your soap: bar or liquid? Who doesn’t love the smell of those soapy suds? Fragrances are not always listed on ingredient panels, but when they are, they are unclear. If soaps have different smells, why are they all labeled under the same term?

Fragrance is a broad description of scents in soap. FDA requires that ingredients in personal care products be listed in order of predominance except for constituents in fragrances. This is of concern because fragrances are made up of numerous chemicals (30-500 different chemicals), most of which consumers are unaware.

Major ingredients that are primarily found in typical soaps’ fragrances include polycyclic and nitro musks. Nitro musks increase the proliferation rate of human breast cancer cells according to Bitsch et al. According to Schreurs et al. polycyclic musks were found to possess antiestrogenic, antiandrogenic and antiprogestegenic activity meaning these chemicals are endocrine disruptors (EDCs).

There are also other EDCs found in soaps. According to a study done by the Silent Spring Institute and published in health and Environmental Health Perspectives, “BPA was detected in 15 conventional product samples including soap.” BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, which mimics estrogen and has other effects.

Furthermore, the study found that either triclosan or triclocarbon was detected in 76% of liquid soaps and 29% of bar soaps. Triclosan is a known endocrine disruptor that suppresses thyroid hormone. It is found in Antibacterial soaps and other personal care products (see Emily’s post June 12 on toothpaste).

Chemicals are not easy to understand or read on an ingredient list, but consumers should have the ability to know what is in their personal care products. Scientists and regulators also need labeling of the constituents of ingredients, such as fragrances, in personal products so that they can access exposure and test the safety of the chemicals.

N. Bitsch, C. Dudas, W. Körner, K. Failing, S. Biselli, G. Rimkus, H. Brunn “Estrogenic Activity of Musk Fragrances Detected by the E-Screen Assay Using Human MCF-7 Cells Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology” October 2002, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 0257-0264

Richard H. M. M. Schreurs, Edwin Sonneveld, Jenny H. J. Jansen, Willem Seinen, and Bart van der Burg “Interaction of Polycyclic Musks and UV Filters with the Estrogen Receptor (ER), Androgen Receptor (AR), andProgesterone Receptor (PR) in Reporter Gene Bioassays” Toxicological Sciences 83, 264-272 (2005)

Robin E. Dodson, Marcia Nishioka, Laurel J. Standley, Laura J. Perovich, Julia Green Brody, and Ruthann A. Rudel. “Endocrine Disruptors and Asthma-Associated Chemicals in Consumer Products Environ Health Perspect.” 2012 July; 120(7): 935–943

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