Safe Cosmetics Act Introduced in US House

For the first time in 70 years, Congress is poised to close the holes in the federal law that allows chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities and other illnesses to be used in the products we use on our bodies every day.

Last week, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, (HR 5786), which gives the Food and Drug Administration authority to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful ingredients. Existing law, passed in 1938, granted decision-making about ingredient safety to the cosmetics industry.

“Harmful chemicals have no place in the products we put on our bodies or on our children’s bodies,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “Our cosmetics laws are woefully out of date—manufacturers aren’t even required to disclose all their ingredients on labels, leaving Americans unknowingly exposed to harmful mystery ingredients. This bill will finally protect those consumers.”

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Americans use an average of 10 personal care products each day, resulting in exposure to more than 126 unique chemicals—not counting the many undisclosed chemicals in “fragrance.” Toxic exposures from personal care products add to our daily dose of hazardous chemicals from air, water, food and other consumer products.

“The cosmetics industry says the amounts of potentially toxic chemicals in their products are so small that they carry no risk, but we know that for some chemicals small doses can have big effects,” said Maryann Donovan, Ph.D., an expert on environmental exposures and biological effects from the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. “We need to better understand the short- and long-term health effects resulting from small doses of toxic chemicals, repeated daily exposures, exposures during fetal or infant development, and exposures to mixtures of chemicals in personal care products.”

Major provisions of the legislation would:

  • Phase out ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm
  • Create a health-based safety standard that includes protections for children, the elderly, workers and other vulnerable populations
  • Close labeling loopholes by requiring full ingredient disclosure, including the constituent ingredients of fragrance and salon products, on product labels and company Web sites
  • Give workers access to information about unsafe chemicals in personal care products
  • Require data sharing to avoid duplicative testing and encourage the development of alternatives to animal testing
  • Provide adequate funding the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors so it has the resources it needs to provide effective oversight of the cosmetics industry
  • Level the playing field so small businesses can compete fairly

Rep. Markey applauded the bill: “From lipstick to lotion, our medicine cabinets are filled with cosmetics that may contain potentially dangerous chemicals. This important bill closes a gaping hole in our Federal laws that allows potentially dangerous chemicals to remain in the cosmetic products we use every day.”

To help generate support for the legislation, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics also launched The Story of Cosmetics, a 7-minute video produced by Annie Leonard and Free Range Graphics, creators of the viral hit The Story of Stuff, which has been viewed more than 12 million times. In the new film, Leonard reveals the toxic side of the beauty industry and explains that it’s not the choices we make at the store, but the choices made behind the scenes–by industry and the government–that affect the health of our families. The film concludes with a call for viewers to support legislation aimed at ensuring the safety of cosmetics and personal care products.

“This legislation would give FDA real authority to ensure that personal care products sold in the U.S. meet a basic standard of safety,” said EWG senior Vice President for Research Jane Houlihan. “We stand with Reps. Schakowsky, Markey and Baldwin as they embark on the tough work necessary to move this legislation, so that someday Americans can go to the store and buy shampoo, moisturizers, body wash and other grooming products with full confidence they aren’t laced with chemicals whose effects on health are unknown or downright dangerous.” 

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Comments on “Safe Cosmetics Act Introduced in US House”

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