Smart discussion about toxics policy reform

Closing the Gap on Cosmetics Safety

EWG strongly supports cosmetics companies that strive to make the safest possible products. Unfortunately, with major gaps in current cosmetics law, some manufacturers don’t always choose the safest ingredients. The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 would help close these gaps.

Current law requires a company to post a warning on any product whose safety has not been substantiated. But the law does not define safety or require that companies document their (highly variable) decisions on what is safe enough to sell.

The 2010 bill goes one important step further than current law. It would require companies to submit to the Food and Drug Administration the studies they use to substantiate safety. This important advance in transparency will help ensure that any companies currently cutting corners on safety will improve their practices.

Among other provisions, each cosmetic manufacturer would be required, for the first time, to register with the FDA and to provide the agency with product ingredient lists. This will give the agency for the first time a full record of the many thousands of chemicals used by the industry.

The bill has caused quite a stir. In particular, some smaller companies have expressed concerns about the resources that would be required to comply with the proposed law.

However, the bill’s authors have included several provisions to make it easier for small companies comply with the new, basic safety standards for cosmetics:

  • Registration fees would be required only of companies with gross annual receipts exceeding $1 million.
  • FDA would be required to make public all health and safety studies it receives from every manufacturer. This means that small businesses would have access to studies currently thought to be held unpublished by a wide range of manufacturers, including major companies with extensive libraries of unpublished research. This new font of information should help all manufacturers make safer products.
  • Ingredient suppliers would be required to provide all available health and safety studies available for their products to any manufacturer requesting the information. Small businesses in particular would benefit from this provision.
  • The FDA would be required to publish a list of ingredients it deems to be Safe Without Limit (SWL). These would be chemicals that the agency found to be safe in any amount, in any product.

At EWG, we’re sure the debate will continue. We expect to hear from many more companies. But we hope that before cosmetics makers react to the bill’s new standards, each one will give the proposal a careful, thoughtful read and consider what the bill requires that it is already doing – and its competitors aren’t.

We think the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 would help level the playing field and bring all companies up to the high standard that only some meet now.

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2 Responses to “Closing the Gap on Cosmetics Safety”

  1. Cindy Jones says:

    I will politely disagree with you that you support cosmetic companies trying to make the safest possible products. As a small cosmetics company I really don’t see how any but the largest, most well known companies could stay afloat if this bill passes. Sure, there is no registration fee, but what about the added cost of filing, registering every ingredient, formula, supplier, employee, etc? What about the testing required to prove there are no ‘toxins’ in the product? What about eliminating any level of any carcinogen? As a company that makes herbal products I know my products will contain naturally occurring carcinogens such as caffeic acid. What about eliminating any level of any estrogen? As a company that uses unprocessed, organic olive oil and rice bran oil I know my products contain phytoestrogens,. In fact, I choose many of my oils because they do contain phytoestrogens and I know that even though they bind to estrogen receptors which scares you, they are beneficial to the skin. Are you as concerned about birth control pills in our water systems as you are about estrogens from cosmetics?
    The SCA is not based on science – at least not peer reviewed science and it is not based on logic either.

  2. The Act proposes that “data demonstrating that exposure to all sources of the ingredient or cosmetic present not more than a 1 in a million risk for any adverse effect in the population of concern.”

    The “population of concern” is not defined, but “vulnerable population” is defined, and includes “infants”, and “people with compromised immune systems”, though neither of these is defined. A person with a compromised immune system would, by most definitions, include people who do not get sufficient sleep, or who frequently suffer from colds.

    Because so many terms in the Act are not defined, it is open to wide interpretation, including, for example, that the ingredients of a mascara or men’s hair-growth product, would have to be proven to present no more than 1 in a million risk of adverse reaction (another term that is not defined) in infants.

    I have asked this question on other forums, and so far the only answer I have received is “water”. Here’s the question: can you provide evidence for any cosmetic ingredient demonstrating that it presents less than one in a million risk of all possible adverse events in humans?