Endocrine disruptors

Endocrine disruptors

Spotlight: Some cosmetic products can contain substances which have a hormonal activity. These substances must be distinguished from endocrine disruptors.

What is an endocrine disruptor?

  • A substance that disrupts the natural mechanism of action of hormones and damages them.

What is the difference between endocrine disruptors and endocrine active substances?

  • Endocrine active substances are chemical or natural substances that cause a reaction of the hormonal system but do not damage it.
  • Some of these substances are also used in cosmetic products.
  • These include, amongst others, UV filters, which filter out the harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sunlight, or preservatives that protect against microbial spoilage.
  • Endocrine activity in natural or synthetic substances is compensated by regulatory circuits in the organism.

Which concerns are expressed?

  • Certain effects such as premature puberty, reduced sperm quality, premature menopause or obesity are seen in connection with endocrine disruptors.
  • Reservation: ingredients of cosmetic products could act as endocrine disruptors and damage the human hormone system in this way.

What do the experts say?

  • German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)
    • There is no scientifically sound evidence for a health hazard through the use of cosmetic products, including not for particularly sensitive consumer groups such as infants or adolescents in their puberty.
    • Statement of grounds: a decisive factor for the assessment of the health risk is exposure, i.e., the extent to which a person comes into contact with a substance with an endocrine effect. The substances from cosmetic products come into contact with the human body in such low amounts that an adverse hormone-like effect cannot occur.
  • German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ)
    • DKFZ considers that there is no evidence for a harmful hormone-like effect caused by sunscreens.

What are the regulations?

  • In biocide and pesticide legislation, criteria have been published to identify when a hormonally active substance becomes an endocrine disruptor.
  • Whether the criteria from the other legal areas can be transferred to the European cosmetics law is currently being examined.