Cough. Cough. Coughcoughocough.
Look at what now exists? The Safe Cosmetics Alliance. It sounds a lot like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, right? Except it’s not. It’s an industry-funded campaign that appears to me to be designed to confuse you.
“The cosmetics industry is committed to maintaining its high safety standards (1) by advocating that laws keep pace with science and technology (2). We support new regulations to help strengthen FDA oversight (3), increase transparency (4), and enhance consumer confidence (5).” [Numbers ours.]
Let’s fact check it, yeah?
(1) This is a good time to refresh everyone’s memory about safety testing and the cosmetics industry. Yes, they do test their products’ ingredients for safety. Most large companies have large teams of scientists who do just that, and we believe, as we’ve said in the book, that according to whatever criteria they are using for “safe” that indeed, their products pass the test. “Safe” is a vague word, though. It’s safe because it doesn’t give me a rash? It’s safe now and we just really HOPE it’s safe to use daily for decades? It’s safe because we don’t know that it’s for sure unsafe? It’s safe because we are certain it’s benign to the human body and to nature?
If this said “The cosmetics industry is committed to ensuring that personal care products are free of reproductive toxicants, carcinogens, hormone disruptors and neurotoxins,” I’d feel a lot better about that. Precise language, clear promises, good stuff. But it doesn’t.
(2) As we all know, cosmetics regulations haven’t really changed since 1938, when they were written. Since then, the industry has exploded in size, revenue, ingredients used and certainly technology. So I’m not totally sure what they’re saying here, but it strikes me as completely ludicrous (personal opinion).
(3) As the laws are currently written, the FDA does not have the manpower, legal authority or budget to regulate the cosmetics industry and we have to assume that’s exactly how the Personal Care Products Council wants it, since they spend time and money lobbying against regulation, and have launched impressive, persuasive campaigns throughout history any time anyone has tried. (See our regulation chapter in the book for a refresher on this.) That said, the industry’s counter-take on the Safe Cosmetics Act has been that they agree that it’s time for the laws to change. As you can well imagine, however, the difference between what the Act thinks the laws should say, and what the PCPC (the industry trade group representing the industry) thinks it should say, is gigantic.
(4) The most transparent thing about a beauty product is its ingredient label, with the very important exception of its fragrance—which is in almost all products, including things like blush and eye shadow. Fragrance is at the top of our personal “no exceptions” list, and we think it should at the top of yours too. But hey—if the companies want to go totally transparent and offer up exactly what safety testing they’re doing, for instance, I would love to see that, and I bet you would too. We’d also love to see minutes from their meetings and for them to return journalists’ calls.
(5) This part sounds true! They want you to have faith in their products so that you will buy them. Unfortunately, they’re not meeting any of the criteria that would make us feel better. How about you?
Happy Monday all! There’s some exciting news today in clean revolution land. Congress reps Jan Schakowsky, Ed Markey, and Tammy Baldwin have introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011—you know, because they think it’s time to update a law that was written in 1938 that gives all of the power to industry, and no protection to consumers. Here are the details of what the act covers, from Cosmetics Design:
- Require safety assessment of all cosmetics ingredients using a health-based standard that includes protections for children, the elderly, workers and other vulnerable populations.
- Phase out of cosmetics any ingredient linked to cancer, birth defects and reproductive or developmental harm.
- Require registration of cosmetic manufacturing, packaging and distributing facilities. Micro businesses with annual revenue under $2 million are exempt from registration
- Close labeling loopholes by requiring full ingredient disclosure on product labels and websites including salon products and the constituent ingredients in fragrances.
- Give workers access to information about hazardous chemicals in personal care products used in professional salons.
- Require data-sharing to avoid duplicative testing, encourage transparency and reduce the need for animal testing. Validated alternatives to animal testing will also be encouraged.
- Give the FDA recall authority and require notification of adverse health effects to the FDA.
- Provide adequate funding and support to the FDA office of cosmetics and colors so it can provide effective oversight to the cosmetics industry.
- Establish a pro-rated registration fee to generate the resources needed to administer the Act, while exempting small businesses with annual revenue under $10 million.
- Direct the FDA to provide technical support to small businesses to help them carry out the requirements of the Act.
- Protect stronger state and local laws.
Putting aside the will-it-won’t-it pass, what else would you like to see new legislation change?
Yesterday Siobhan and I sat in on a press conference call with other journalists, Representatives Jan Schakowsky, Tammy Baldwin and Ed Markey, cancer survivor and activist Fran Drescher (aka the Nanny) and members of the EWG and the Breast Cancer Fund.
On the call, Rep. Schakowsky announced new legislation proposing stricter regulation of personal care products. For those of you who have read the book, you know that the subject of regulation is near and dear to our hearts.
Among other things, the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 would provide more regulatory power to the FDA (including the authority to force recalls), establish a list of prohibited ingredients and require manufacturers to conduct safety assessments and submit that information to the FDA. It would even demand that fragrance ingredients be listed on labels, ammending longstanding trade-secret protection laws. In a statement from 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.”
If you’re new to the site or the subject, you may be surprised that these protective measures aren’t already in place—welcome to the shock we felt when we first discovered it.
Of course the bigger question is: Will this bill pass? We sure hope so, but we’re not going to hold our breath in the short term. We are all too aware of the lobbying power of the Personal Care Products Council, the industry’s trade group. These changes would not be in their best interest—since they would likely require expensive reformulations—and they’re already claiming that the act is not based on “established scientific principles.”
One thing is for sure: This is going to get interesting. For more insight read Bryan Walsh’s great post about it on the TIME blog.
This awesome video comes courtesy of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Just watch it. Then send it to everybody you know. We’re on the brink of big things people, big things.