The Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has initiated a Proposition 65 legal action against Walgreens and four other companies for the sale of skin peel products that contain the Proposition 65 carcinogen trichloro-acetic acid (TCA)(CAS No. 76-03-9).According to CEH research director Caroline Cox, just
one treatment of a “Perfect Image” brand TCA skin peel sold by Walgreens can expose a woman to more than the lifetime limit for TCA. Cox explained that CEH calculated the lifetime risk by using EPA levels derived from the agency’s IRIS risk evaluation of TCA to calculate the incidence of one excess case of cancer in 100,000.
TCA was added to the Proposition 65 carcinogen list on September 13, 2013. CEH’s 60-day notice is the first to identify products containing the chemical.
According to the notice letter, the named skin peel products contain elevated levels of TCA.
CEH purchased eleven TCA-based skin peel products in September from online retailers, including Walgreens.com and Amazon Marketplace. According to the product labels, the TCA skin peels contain between 15 to 50 percent of TCA, the non-profit said.
In addition to cancer, TCA has been linked in animal studies to genetic damage, birth defects, reduced fertility and other serious health problems. Last year, a New York Times report revealed the health concerns about TCA peels and described the history and uses of the chemical. For decades, TCA was primarily used as a pesticide. But it has other industrial applications including use as a soil sterilizer and a laboratory intermediate or reagent in the synthesis of a variety of medicinal products and organic chemicals. It is also used as an etching and pickling agent for the surface treatment of metals and (in solution) as a solvent in the plastics industry.
Most skin peels are marketed to women, but some are marketed to men with acne scarring and some specifically target African American men. There are alternatives to TCA, including milder acid peels and non-chemical skin treatments. CEH advises consumers to avoid TCA peels and look for safer, non-chemical treatments.
The TCA chemical peels gained popularity because they can reduce sun damage and are an effective treatment for acne scars. Cox emphasized that the TCA peels are especially potent, and gentler alternatives are available.
Early this year specifically targeted Walgreens stores “to highlight the company’s failure to adopt strong policies to protect consumers from toxic chemicals.” CEH notes that retailers such as Target and Walmart are taking more proactive steps to address chemical health threats to consumers. CEH’s testing program in 2013 found high levels of toxic chemicals in a variety of products sold at Walgreens, including toys, purses, and electronics, among others.
TCA Products Tested by CEH
Perfect Image 15% skin peel/Walgreens.com (also purchased from Amazon Marketplace)
Perfect Image Eternity skin resurfacing peel pads/Walgreens.com
MedPeel 20% TCA skin peel kit/skin-peel.com (Mayt’s)
Peel Rx Medi Peel 25%/ NaturalSkinShop.com
Skin Obsession 25% TCA skin peel/Skinobsession.com
Platinum Skin Care 30% TCA skin peel/Platinumskincare.com
Makeup Artists Choice 30% TCA skin peel/MakeupArtistsChoice.com
I’m Fabulous skin peel/im-fabulous.com
MediPeel 30%/Molarity (via Amazon Marketplace)
TCA 20% Pro Strength/Erlenmeyer’s Laboratory (via Amazon Marketplace)
Dermalure TCA 50% skin peel/Dermalure.com (via Amazon Marketplace)