Cosmetics as a potential source of environmental contamination in the UK

  • Dhanirama D
  • Gronow J
  • Voulvoulis N
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Chemicals of emerging concern (CECs) are frequently used in cosmetic formulations and can potentially reach the environment at concentrations that may cause harm. A methodology was developed to assess over 120 chemicals assembled from product ingredient listings to identify and validate potential CECs in cosmetics, based on Annex XIII of REACH legislation. Ten potential CECs were identified: polydimethylsiloxane, butylated hydroxylanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene, triclosan, nano titanium dioxide, nano zinc oxide, butylparaben, diethyl phthalate, octinoxate methoxycinnamate and benzophenone. These chemicals were quantified based on their consumption and concentrations in cosmetics and percentage market penetration. The initial predicted environmental concentrations (PEC initial) were estimated to determine their exposure to the environment. With the exception of BHA, the PEC initial highlighted levels of exposure to the environment that triggered the need for further investigation of the chemicals. These chemicals were linked to cosmetics to highlight products with the potential to cause environmental harm. Skin care products had the highest quantities of CECs, with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanomaterials being dominant potential contaminants. Further research is required to assess the exposure pathways and fate of these chemicals to determine environmental risks associated with their use and disposal.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Chemicals of emerging concern
  • Cosmetics
  • Personal care products
  • Predicted environmental concentrations

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  • Danelle Dhanirama

  • Jan Gronow

  • Nikolaos Voulvoulis

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