Written by Abla Miller, CNN
In 2015, chemical companies introduced the Omicron AO, an animal-tested certification guaranteeing that no further use of the chemical will be made after 2010.
The certificate was quickly demanded by animal welfare groups, animal organizations and the US EPA, which has issued several instructions to affected manufacturers.
But some corporations have begun turning away from the scheme, claiming it gives the impression that use of the substance can continue.
The Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, has recently come out in support of this position, declaring that the certification would cost American families $40 billion over the next 20 years — a figure it says was based on the EPA’s figures.
In an editorial published in the New York Times, Craig Albert, a senior producer at the Consumer Federation of America, said the Omicron AO is “less than useless.” It “contains a loophole that allows companies to continue using the substance after 2010, and any research into the long-term effects of AO on humans has been largely halted,” he says.
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Not all critics of the label are as open-minded. The Washington Post reports that business leaders have warned that the certification could cost jobs and even lead to a reduction in consumer demand.
A recent study from the animal rights group PETA concluded that the US use of oxybenzone and the formulation it is in, oxybenzone-methylpyrrolidene-vinuronate, causes bee die-offs.
But the anti-AO campaigners point out that Oxybenzone may be harmful to humans just as much as it is harmful to bees. It is present in low concentrations in the human body, and the most compelling source of evidence against it, the group states, is the recent World Health Organization’s finding that human “indiscriminate consumption” of sunflower oil, which has been found to contain it, is one of the major causes of skin cancer.
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The organization adds that another chemical (sodium benzoate) that’s used to make sunscreens , also leaches into the food chain in the case of human consumption. “In general, this chemical has been considered safe for human consumption because it isn’t a known endocrine disruptor. But if the food supply becomes contaminated with methylpyrrolidene-vinuronate, it could have harmful effects on the organisms in it,” says Erin McCarty, PETA’s senior veep for policy.
PETA urges the US Environmental Protection Agency to “widen its investigation into oxybenzone and methylpyrrolidene-vinuronate and consider them for regulation.”
But the EPA points out that the chemicals were not used in non-suntan lotions containing oxybenzone.
Talks with manufacturers about what to do with the AO, and whether and how it might be used again, continue.