WASHINGTON – Congress today passed the first update since 1938 to the federal law regulating personal care products, with key cosmetics reform provisions included in must-pass end-of-year spending legislation.
“Although more is needed to ensure the safety of chemicals used in cosmetics, this update is a welcome step in the right direction,” said Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group senior vice president for government affairs.
The U.S. has lagged behind the rest of the world in regulating the contaminants and ingredients in personal care products such as cosmetics. More than 80 other countries have taken action to protect their citizens from chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm.
Every Congress since 2015, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced the Personal Care Products Safety Act. If enacted, it would give the Food and Drug Administration the ability to protect the public from harm from cosmetics they use daily.
“We are grateful that many of the reforms sought by Sens. Feinstein and Collins and championed by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Frank Pallone are included in the end-of-year spending bill,” said Faber. “The FDA will now have many of the same commonsense, basic tools the FDA already has for oversight of other product categories.”
The bill’s cosmetics provisions will require companies to prove the safety of their products and finally allow the FDA to review related records when the health of consumers may be at risk.
Companies will also be required to test personal care products made with talc for asbestos, using state-of-the-art methods.
The FDA will receive other basic oversight powers for cosmetics, including to order recalls, that it has for other product categories.
And cosmetics companies will have to register with the FDA, report products and ingredients, adopt good manufacturing practices and report serious adverse events caused by using products.
“Consumers, not just the FDA, will have more information when purchasing cosmetics, since fragrance allergens will now be on product labels,” added Faber.
The personal care product provisions will allow the FDA to review safety records for chemicals of concern, but it is not required to do so. Congress failed to provide the FDA in the end-of-year spending bill with the resources needed for that work.
And the cosmetics provisions will not require the FDA to review and, if warranted, ban or restrict chemicals, as Feinstein and Collins originally proposed.
“The hard work of banning or restricting chemicals will now fall to the states,” said EWG President and Co-founder Ken Cook. “The cosmetics provisions in the end-of-year spending bill preserve the ability of states to ban toxic chemicals from cosmetics, as California, Colorado and Maryland have recently done.”
“Some of the most extreme voices in the cosmetics industry and their fellow travelers wanted to eviscerate state powers, but EWG insisted on preserving the ability of states to ban or restrict chemicals of concern,” Cook added.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.