MPs back ban on plastic chemicals

Phthalates and parabens found in beauty creams, shaving gel and hundreds of everyday items could be outlawed

3 May 2011

HORMONE-disrupting phthalate chemicals could be banned after a surprise vote in the National Assembly.

MPs voted through the first reading of a bid to ban the plasticisers, used mainly to increase the flexibility and longevity of plastics, along with paraben preservatives used in cosmetic manufacture.

The vote was passed despite being opposed by the government and President Sarkozy’s UMP. It was pushed by the centre-right Nouveau Centre grouping, which is led by former defence minister Hervé Morin.

Phthalates are widely used in plastic wrapping, adhesives, paints, nail varnish, hair lacquer and perfume and are already banned in children’s toys.

However, they can easily leach into foodstuffs and are released into the atmosphere as the plastics break down. Tests in America showed most people had phthalates in their bloodstream.

They are hormone disruptors which can affect the male reproductive process. The have also been linked to increased obesity.

Parabens are used in moisturisers, shampoos, shaving gel, rub-on gels and toothpaste. They are thought to mimic oestrogen and have been linked to breast cancer as well as affecting male reproductive processes.

The vote, 236 against 222, was greeted with cheers in the parliament although it is not certain to become law as the government is not bound to pass it to the Senat for further consideration.

Health minister Xavier Bertrand had suggested when the bill was first proposed that it was premature and it would be better to wait until the end of next year for the results of new scientific tests. His predecessor, Roselyne Bachelot, had proposed putting stickers on cosmetics to warn pregnant women of the presence of parabens.

Several cosmetic companies have now withdrawn the chemicals from use voluntarily.

Environmental campaigners have cheered the vote, with researcher André Cicolella telling newspaper Le Parisien: “It’s an excellent decision and shows MPs have been conscious of the importance of the situation and resisted the chemical lobby.”

Photo: Szerdahelyi Adam - Fotolia.com

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