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Test Revealed: One Lip Balm Model Contains Plasticizer - CHOICE # 425 (March 15, 2012)

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In the Council's test on lip balm, one sample was found to contain DEHP, a type of phthalate plasticizers which is prohibited for use in cosmetics in many countries.

Consumer Council conducted a test on 30 models of lip balm available on the market, with prices ranging from HK$12 to HK$64. Among them, 3 samples were labelled as lip balm for men and some of the samples were marked as medicated.

Test items included checks on heavy metals, chemicals and microbial contents. The Council also examined if necessary product information was provided.

In the test, one sample was found to contain the prohibited chemical bis-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) at a level of 14.8 ppm. The test result has been referred to the Customs and Excise Department for follow-up.

Certain phthalates are prohibited to be used as constituents in cosmetic products under the European and Mainland regulations. According to studies on phthalates in cosmetic products in Europe, products with a low level of DEHP (up to 100 ppm) do not indicate a risk to the health of consumers. However, consumers should avoid exposure to DEHP.

In the tests for heavy metals and toxic elements, trace level of lead was found in 14 samples, with concentration ranging from 0.033ppm to 0.096ppm, which was far below the limits set by the Mainland (40ppm) and Germany (20ppm). Meanwhile, 2 samples were found to contain trace level of antimony. The concentration level ranged from 0.094ppm to 0.11ppm, which was far below the maximum acceptable concentration of 10ppm set by Germany.

For the 5 commonly used parabens, methylparaben and propylparaben were detected in 4 samples and 7 samples respectively. The concentration level of those samples was in compliance with the relevant standards set for parabens used in cosmetic products in the Mainland and European Union.

Parabens are allowed for use as preservatives in cosmetic products to inhibit the growth of microorganism.

For the test on microbial contents, all the products tested were found to be in compliance with the standards set by the Mainland.

The information included in the labels of the lip balm samples, however, needs improvement. It was found that 8 samples did not show the expiry date and 22 samples did not show the manufacture date. Also, 8 samples failed to provide information on the lists of composition and 10 samples did not carry user alerts.

The Council is of the view that manufacturers should label the date of manufacture and expiry on their products so that consumers can avoid buying or using expired products. They should also come with information on composition and cautions to users for assisting consumers with skin allergy to choose the appropriate items.

The March issue of CHOICE magazine offers the following tips for consumers in selecting and using lip balm:

There is no significant difference between the lip balms medicated and non-medicated. The former are likely to contain herbal substances which relieve chapped lips.

If lips are prone to allergy, choose lip balms with basic and simple ingredients and no additive.

Lip products which claim for use overnight may contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) which may lead to peeling of lips. Consumers are advised to read the labels carefully before use.

Consumers with lip infection should use lip balm with simple constituents and should avoid getting in touch with allergens. If the infection continues, consumers should seek medical advice.

Lip licking, biting and tearing off dry lip skin will only cause the loss of moisture on the lips and it may even lead to infection.

CHOICE magazine is now also available online (http://choice.yp.com.hk) and via fixed-line and mobile services of PCCW.

Members from the media who are invited by this Council to the Press Conference may quote the content of this Press Statement.

The Consumer Council reserves all its right (including copyright) in respect of CHOICE magazine and Onlin CHOICE ( http://choice.yp.com.hk ).