Poison perfume fans can breathe a little easier now. Once called out in a New York Times ad (right) by environmental groups as actually BEING poison, the popular perfume’s gotten somewhat safer by removing phthalates, chemicals linked to birth defects, asthma, early puberty and decreased sperm counts.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Poison’s perfectly safe. Perfumes, in general, can contain lots of scary chemicals since companies don’t have to disclose the ingredients used to concoct fragrances. Because of this, eco-nonprofit Environmental Working Group advises consumers to avoid products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient.

Still, Poison’s less poisonous formulation’s a cause for celebration, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition that seeks to make cosmetics products safer for consumers. Back in 2002, CSC published Not Too Pretty (PDF), which showed that 72% of popular cosmetic products tested contained phthalates — many multiple types of the chemicals. This year, CSC repeated the tests on the same products to find that the products had gotten rid of three types of phthalates (DBP, DEHP, BBP) though a fourth type (DEP) is still widely used — then published the findings in a new report A Little Prettier (PDF).

CSC points to activist pressure — and the smart policies that resulted from them — as the impetus driving companies to create safer products. Consumers can’t rest easy yet though; most cosmetics are allowed to contain unlimited amounts of phthalates. To check on the safety of your personal care products, visit Skin Deep, a cosmetic database that gives you safety ratings on mascara, perfume, shampoo, and other personal care products.

Image: Courtesy safecosmetics.org

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