Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics: New Legislation to Prevent Exposure

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Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics: New Legislation to Prevent Exposure

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gaping holes in the outdated federal law that allows chemicals linked to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

Today, 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are woefully out of date-manufacturers aren't even required to disclose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 will:

  • 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."

Rep. Baldwin concurred: "Scientists are increasingly linking
chemicals in personal care products to cancer, learning disabilities and
other widespread health problems in our society. I am proud to
contribute to common-sense legislation that says it's time to ensure the
products we use are safe."

To help generate support for the legislation, today 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."

"When there are cancer-causing chemicals in baby shampoo and mercury
in skin cream, you know the regulatory system is broken," said Janet
Nudelman of the Breast Cancer Fund and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
"Industry self-regulation just isn't working. The Safe Cosmetics Act of
2010 recognizes that consumers have a right to safe personal care
products, that companies have a responsibility to understand the health
effects of the chemicals in their products, and that we need government
to helps us get there."

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The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.

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