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For the record

"Does a woman risk fertility problems by using fake tan?" Image

"Does a woman risk fertility problems by using fake tan?"

On 23rd July 2012 articles in the Sun and Daily Mail suggested that fake tan could increase the risk of fertility problems, birth defects, allergies, diabetes and obesity. The Daily Mail described a “cocktail of chemicals which may pose a risk to health”. Here we put the claims in context.

Professor Alan Boobis, Director of the Department of Health Toxicology Unit at Imperial College London: 

“The constituents of fake tan are in general of low toxicity. Some are present in many consumer products and indeed are produced normally in our own bodies, for example, dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and formaldehyde. Whilst it is true that a number of the chemicals listed can cause adverse effects to humans, this depends on the dose and the route of exposure.  Some of the adverse effects listed have only been seen when products of a lower quality than permitted for use in cosmetics are tested.  For example suitable grades of talc are considered acceptable for use on the skin of babies; it is difficult to believe that these grades would not also be suitable for inclusion in fake tans for use by adults.”

Dr Chris Flower, director general of the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association also points out that “There are stringent EU laws covering the manufacture of cosmetic products.”

In 2006 we worked with scientists on Making Sense of Chemical Stories, a guide to flag up the misconceptions that exist around chemicals. As the guide details:

A lot of commentators promote concern about a ‘cocktail of chemicals’ in our bodies. What this description usually implies is that, while individual substances may be considered safe at current levels of exposure, they may interact with each other and create unforeseen effects. But, chemically speaking, a ‘cocktail’ – or synergistic – effect is only true of a relatively small number of substances and these are well-known. The natural world is a ‘cocktail of chemicals’ so our bodies are used to dealing with a mix of substances. The same processes of storing, neutralising, breaking down and excreting occur when we encounter new substances.

Document type: For The Record

Published: 30 July 2012

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