Update on Cosmetics Allergy

In New Zealand the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) in accordance with the requirement of the Hazardous Substance and new Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 issued a group standard for cosmetics. This group standard came into force on July 1, 2006. On this date ERMA NZ issued group standards for 30 different categories of hazardous substances. When a substance is assigned to a group standard, it is deemed an approval substance under HSNO.

Group Standards
A group standard is an approval for a group of hazardous substances of a similar type or nature, or that are used in a similar way.

Hazardous substances include products that are:

  • Flammable
  • Oxidizing
  • Toxic to the body or environment
  • Corrosive
  • Sensitising to the skin or respiratory tract
  • Mutagenic or carcinogenic.

The definition of cosmetics used in the group standard means any substance or preparation intended to be placed in contact with various external parts of the human body (epidermis, hair system, nails, lips and external genital organs) or with the teeth and mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or mainly to cleaning them, perfuming them, changing their appearance and/or correcting body odours and/or protecting them or keeping them in good condition. The products covered include soaps, shampoos, hair dyes, shaving, toothpaste, and body care products and specialised products like sunscreens.

The cosmetic group standard is based around the Hazardous Substance and new Organisms (HSNO) regulations and incorporates many aspects of the EU Cosmetics Directives regarding restrictions on ingredients and labeling. The EU Directives is a set of rules agreed by the European Community to harmonize control of cosmetics.

The cosmetic group standard developed by the ERMA New Zealand lists chemicals from the EU Directives. Some of these chemicals are banned in cosmetics, and other substances which may be used subject to various restrictions. The group standard has banned the use of MMA (methyl methyacralate) in cosmetics. Many cosmetics manufacturers were already voluntarily complying with these standards in New Zealand for some time.

Prior to July 2006, no specific regulations have covered cosmetics. The only regulation in place was the Medicines Regulations 1981 required labeling of certain hair dyes, and cosmetics containing toxic substances were controlled under the Toxic substances Regulations 1983.

Labeling of Cosmetics
The group standard proposes that all hazardous components in cosmetics must be identified on the label down to a concentration of 0.1%. However, advertising claims on cosmetic labels or in advertising in New Zealand are not under the control of HSNO Act, unless the claim is contrary to the known hazards of the product.

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