A banned chemical used in a face cleanser – typically found in paint and pesticide – was only spotted after a customer raised concerns.
Carolyn Flay alerted the Environmental Protection Authority after experiencing extreme irritation, bloodshot eyes and constant infections following her use of a Skin Physics face cleanser called Anti-Oxidant Skin Care Duo.
The authority found the ingredient benzisothiazolinone, a biocide commonly used in paint and pesticides and outlawed in New Zealand, was in the cleanser.
There was no evidence that the banned chemical caused the Feilding woman’s injuries, the agency’s chief executive Allan Freeth said, but benzisothiazolinone was classified as a skin irritant and eye corrosive.
Following the authority’s intervention, the manufacturer agreed to re-formulate the product to meet the Cosmetic Products Group Standard.
Skin Physics had confirmed it did not have any stock with the banned chemical available for sale in New Zealand, Freeth said.
Skin Physics, based in Australia, could not be reached for comment.
Flay, 63, contacted the authority after she had tried the cleanser on July 17, 2015, and some of it ran into her right eye.
It felt like acid was dripping into her eyes, she said.
‘‘I just remember screaming and I thought I was going to black out.’’
Flay rang Healthline, which instructed her to wash her eyes out for ‘‘a couple’’ of minutes and visit a doctor the next day. Which she did.
For six weeks she suffered several eye infections, pain and irritation, and she said her eyes were constantly red.
She took sleeping pills to get to sleep.
‘‘It was so horrible I nearly took my life over it.’’
Flay said she had received the skin cleanser after buying cosmetics from a TV infomercial.
She decided to send the cleanser to the Environmental Protection Authority in August 2016.
Claims for ongoing ACC compensation have been denied, most recently in August this year, as a link between benzisothiazolinone and her eye troubles could not be established.
‘‘I cannot lead a normal life now. I take drops 10 times a day, have vision problems, can’t be around paint, wear makeup. I can’t be normal.’’
Optometrist reports following the incident show Flay suffered from ‘‘dry eyes’’ and a ‘‘decreased tear breakup time’’.
Another medical certificate shows Flay had no record of any pre-existing eye condition prior to applying the cleanser.
However, a report from optometrist Richard Holmes found Flay’s symptoms weren’t consistent with a chemical burn and there was ‘‘no possibility’’ of permanent damage.
The authority’s hazardous substances acting manager Stephen Bokkerink said the other ingredients in the Skin Physics product were common in cosmetic products, such as shampoos and other cleansers.
Benzisothiazolinone is related to methylisothiazolinone, which was listed as the 2013 Contact Dermatitis Allergen of the Year by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety.
After ongoing eye problems that Carolyn Flay believed were caused by cosmetics, she alerted the Environmental Protection Authority.