Over the past decade, Environmental Working Group has uncovered either hazardous or untested cosmetics ingredients everywhere our research has taken us — in product tests, in ingredient label surveys and even in people.
In our biomonitoring studies, we sent blood and urine samples from 20 teenage girls from across the country to the laboratory. It turned out they were tainted with an average of 13 potential hormone-disrupting preservatives, plasticizers and other cosmetic chemicals. In umbilical cord blood from 7 of 10 newborn babies, we found synthetic musk fragrances that had crossed the placenta from mother to infant to pollute the developing child before birth.
Our researchers have identified 500 products sold in the U.S. that contain ingredients that are banned in cosmetics in Japan, Canada or Europe. Nearly 100 products have been found to contain ingredients the industry itself has declared unsafe for use in fragrance. Perhaps most disconcerting, our investigations have found that 99 percent of all personal care products are made with at least one and usually several ingredients that have never been assessed for safety by the government or any other publicly accountable institution.
The federal Food and Drug Administration oversees cosmetic safety, but under the shackles of a 1976 law, the agency lacks the authority to review the safety of products before they are sold, or to require recalls of those it knows are harmful.
There’s no doubt Americans want safer products. EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetics safety database logs between 1 and 2 million searches monthly, conducted by people seeking simpler, safer cosmetics from among the more than 60,000 products in our lists. Consumers armed with this information are already driving changes. Many companies are removing suspect chemicals from their wares as a result. More than a thousand have pledged to make safer products through the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, where EWG is a founding member.
And now, federal legislation proposed this week by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) would close major gaps in the law – finally. This measure would give FDA real authority to ensure that personal care products sold in the U.S. meet a basic standard of safety.
This measure is long overdue. We stand with Reps. Schakowsky, Baldwin and Markey as they embark on the tough work necessary to move this legislation, so that someday Americans will be able to 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.