Are cosmetics causing air pollution?

PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
I've always believed that VOC regulations and other aims to restrict the formulation of volatile components of cosmetics was out of place. In my view, people were going after cosmetic products which had a minuscule effect on the environment compared to the transportation or other industries.

This paper I stumbled on has me questioning this belief. 

According to this paper published in Science (a legit science journal),
+38% of VOC in Los Angeles is from Consumer Products

The authors claim that this is mostly a result of cars getting more efficient in their emissions while consumer products haven't changed much.

This isn't my area of expertise so my opinion is easier to manipulate. So, I ask anyone out there who might know...

Is this a reasonable assessment of the impact of cosmetic products on the environment or is this an exaggeration that avoids talking about some key information?

Comments

  • Bill_TogeBill_Toge Member, Professional Chemist
    they seem to have completely neglected the industrial use of volatile solvents, which severely dwarfs consumer use
    UK based cosmetic chemist with 13 years' experience at the bench. I've worked with pretty much everything apart from pressed powders, soap, solid lipstick and aerosols.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    They list industrial VCP (or VOC) at 15% compared to 38% personal care. Is that something different?
  • ozgirlozgirl Member, PCF student
    How much hair spray are they using in Los Angeles? :D :D :D

    Not sure how accurate the data is but it must also be noted that this study was published in 2018 so would not include the increased use of hand sanitisers in the last 2 years.
  • PhilGeisPhilGeis Member, Professional formulator
    I represented P&G in this matter at fed and state (esp. Calif and NY) for over a decade.  For Cal - see https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/cp_all_regs_5-2019.pdf
    You'll see there is no definition of "VOC" in the article and they add medium volatility VOC in their consideration of personal care products.   
    Below is definition of  VOC in all state and fed reg's (emphasis added)

    Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)” means any compound containing at least one atom of carbon, excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates, and ammonium carbonate, and excluding the following:

    "the following" includes a list of halogenated VOC that do not react to form smog - and acetone. 

    For personal care products - VOC as all carbon containing compounds largely goes down the drain. 

     California by law make industry lower to the "maximum extent feasible" highly volatile organic compounds (>0.1mm  VP) through the last decades.  They even reversed the aerosol antiperspirant/deodorant reg. after (P&G) discovered they low high VOC formula  formed a carcinogen.


  • Bill_TogeBill_Toge Member, Professional Chemist
    edited April 1
    Perry said:
    They list industrial VCP (or VOC) at 15% compared to 38% personal care. Is that something different?
    I've no idea how they managed to come up with that figure, given that their measurements came entirely from residential and commercial properties, and the roads adjacent to them
    the whole thing seems like a bodge job, and the fact it was published in a peer-reviewed journal is a damning indictment of the ongoing decline in academic standards
    UK based cosmetic chemist with 13 years' experience at the bench. I've worked with pretty much everything apart from pressed powders, soap, solid lipstick and aerosols.
  • PhilGeisPhilGeis Member, Professional formulator
    Good point Bill.  Think academics writing about practical stuff are often over their heads - and when reviewing such stuff often get intimidated.
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