More than a third of lip balm products sold in Hong Kong contain excessive amounts of ingredients that could affect the reproductive system and even cause cancer, according to tests conducted by a biotech company.
Vitargent (International) Biotechnology Ltd., a startup founded in 2010, collected 31 samples from 30 brands between April and May, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
It then applied its proprietary technology to test toxicity in food and skincare products.
The products were categorized as “green fish”, “yellow fish” or “red fish” to help consumers ascertain product safety.
Green fish means “excellent” and consumers can rest assured that the products are safe for purchase. Yellow fish means “basic” and consumers are recommended to buy with caution. Red fish means “sub-optimal”, indicating a product is below standard in one or more criteria and consumers are recommended to purchase with extra caution.
According to the results, there were 16 green fish and four yellow fish, with the rest, or about 35 percent, being red fish.
Vitargent chief executive Jimmy Tao said red fish products, most of which claim to be sun-protective, were found to contain one or multiple estrogen-like ingredients such as benzophenone-3, octinoxate, octocrylene and homosalate that fail to meet the standards set by its technology.
Long-term excessive exposure to estrogen-like ingredients can result in nerve system disorder, diabetes, precocity, low reproductive capability and cancer, Tao said.
Figures from the European Union’s Committee on Cosmetic Products show that each person applies 0.057 grams of lip balm a day on average.
Vitargent said tests showed the worst among the red fish products can lead users to absorb 11 times the amount.
While the company refused to reveal the list of the red fish and the yellow fish products, it promised to contact their makers to make improvements.
Vitargent chief technology officer Chen Xueping, who is also an EU and British-registered toxicologist, said that the US-based Environmental Working Group has strongly advised consumers against using lip balm products that contain benzophenone-3.
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