Clean beauty is a trending topic and its definition is one that is more complex than meets the eye. While the landscape of what makes a product clean can be difficult to navigate, two of the many factors that play into what makes a cosmetic formulation “clean” are its environmental impact and human health impact. Determining if a formulation is free of PBTs is a great starting point when assessing against these criteria.
PBT stands for persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic substances.
Persistence: Chemicals in the environment typically degrade over time through reactions with sunlight, microbes, rain, or other factors. PBT chemicals resist this degradation and therefore accumulate in soil, water, and bodily tissue.
Bioaccumulation: Chemicals that are bioaccumulative accumulate in bodily tissue instead of being expelled or broken down metabolically. Chemicals that tend to bioaccumulate are typically fat soluble.
Toxicity: Toxic chemicals pose a threat to human health and the health of the environment. With an increase in concentration, the toxicity of a chemical goes up which is why PBT chemicals especially pose a threat to our planet.
On Novi, the process of determining if a formulation is PBT free is as simple as uploading your ingredient list and selecting the newly updated policy: Free of Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic Substances.
To create this policy, we have referenced authoritative lists such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and European Chemical Agency SVHC among others. Encoding a variety of different sources allows us to conservatively capture the widest applicable range of hazardous chemicals.
The latest update, completed February 2023, added all PFAs chemicals (see our blog post: How Beauty Brands Can Get Ahead of New PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Requirements), as PFAs are PBTs.
The EU is considering a new and related hazard classification: PMT/vPvM (persistent, mobile, and toxic) substances.
These are chemicals that display similar hazards to PBTs. The key difference lies within the bioaccumulation criteria: PMTs are classified as mobile due to their high water solubility which allows for them to be transferred across vast geographical areas. PMT chemicals are especially hard to remove from our water supply, which due to their persistent and toxic nature, pose a hazard to our water quality.
EU REACH is in the process of establishing scientific criterion for the classification of PMTs. None have been officially classified yet, but as a preemptive measure the Free of PBT policy on Novi will flag the 35 chemicals that meet the EU criteria for PMTs so far. We will continue to monitor for updates in this area.