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New & Improved: Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, introduced June 24 by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) has a simple aim: to give the federal Food and Drug Administration the authority to protect consumers from dangerous ingredients in cosmetics.

What the FDA Can - and Can't Do The Obama administration recently classified formaldehyde a known human carcinogen. Yet the FDA does not have the power to require a recall of Brazilian Blowout and other formaldehyde-laden hair-straighteners. EWG fans will remember our April 2011 report "Flat-Out Risky" that turned up reports of hair loss, blisters, burning eyes, noses and throats, headaches and vomiting among salon workers and customers using these products.

The federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) gives the FDA authority to require pre-market testing, recall dangerous products and restrict ingredients in prescription drugs and medical devices. Just last year Congress extended the agency's powers so that it could mandate safety inspections of food facilities and recall products. But despite the law's name, the FDA's authority over cosmetics is severely limited by the two pages of the cosmetics title of FFDCA that have not been comprehensively updated since 1938. Under current law, FDA can't require a recall of dangerous products from store shelves, can't force companies to disclose what ingredients are in the fragrance, colors or dyes in a product, and can't require pre-market safety testing. The Safe Cosmetics Act Would Make Personal Care Products Safer The Safe Cosmetics Act would require safety tests of all ingredients in personal care products. It would empower FDA to prohibit and restrict the use of certain dangerous ingredients, including carcinogens and reproductive and developmental toxins. The agency could recall products that fail to meet safety standards and require product labels to list each ingredient, including those that make up fragrance. Currently a loophole in the law allows companies to just list fragrance on a product label despite most fragrances being composed of multiple, possibly dangerous, chemicals.

Fragrances can contain chemicals linked to serious health problems. In a 2010 study the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Environmental Working Group found that 17 popular fragrance products contained an average of 10 chemicals linked to allergic reactions and four chemicals linked to hormone disruption. In fact, most chemicals found in fragrances have never been assessed for safety. We have a right to know all the ingredients we use on our bodies and we have a right to know they are safe.

The new bill is similar to the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, sponsored by the same House members, but with some important changes designed to help small personal care product companies.

Under the new version of the legislation, hobbyists and microbusinesses would be exempt from registering with the FDA. Those small businesses that make less than $10 million in annual gross receipts would not be required to pay a registration fee. The 2010 version set the bar at $1 million in annual gross receipts and required all businesses to register.

The 2011 version would give priority to food-grade ingredients - ingredients that have already been determined safe as food additives- for use in cosmetics without limit.

The Personal Care Products Council, the hired gun of major cosmetics makers, has argued that its clients need business certainty. We couldn't agree more. We're confident that the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 would do just that by requiring all personal care products to meet the same standard for safety.

Learn More & Take Action! Want to learn more and get involved with this vital legislation? Click here.

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