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New Law Regulates Toxins in Personal Care Products

In 2007, an article in a cosmetics industry magazine made the alarming statement that women absorb 4.6 pounds of chemicals each year — many of them suspected or proven carcinogenic or toxic in one form or another — from personal care/skin treatment/cosmetics products alone. This would, of course, also apply to men and children, although they generally use fewer products than women. The volume of absorbed chemicals was disputed by some, but the issue is nevertheless serious enough to warrant the introduction of a new law, the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (HR 5786).

According to Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., one of the authors of the proposed law, “Scientists are increasingly linking chemicals in personal care products to cancer, learning disabilities and other widespread health problems in our society.”

In fact, the law monitoring the cosmetics industry hasn’t been updated since 1938 when the decision of what ingredients to include in cosmetics and personal care products was left in the hands of the manufacturers.

Since that time about 12,000 chemicals have been added to these products, only eight of which have been safety tested.

The new law will give the FDA the power to:

  • 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,
  • Require full ingredient disclosure, including the ingredients of fragrance and salon products, on product labels and company websites,
  • Give industry workers access to information about unsafe chemicals in personal care products, and
  • Provide adequate funding to the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors so it has the resources it needs to provide effective oversight of the cosmetics industry.

“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 Environmental Working Group 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.”

Source: Environmental Working Group (EWG) News release, "Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics: New Legislation to Prevent Exposure,"  July 21, 2010, http://www.ewg.org/Congress_Targets_Chemicals_In_Cosmetics