Real Reform Needed for Outdated Cosmetics Laws

Every day, people apply cosmetics and other personal care products to their skin and hair. The average American woman uses 12 personal care products a day, exposing herself to 168 different chemicals. The average man uses six products a day, containing 85 unique chemical ingredients.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has little authority to review the safety of chemicals in cosmetics. Though some companies make products that are less hazardous, others choose to use troubling ingredients like coal tar and formaldehyde, both human carcinogens, and lead acetate, a developmental toxicant.

EWG created the Skin Deep cosmetics database to help shoppers identify the chemicals they are being exposed to through personal care products, and find healthier alternatives. We then took our research one step further, verifying cosmetics that meet our highest standards. When you see our EWG VERIFIED™ mark on personal care products, you know that these products are free of ingredients of concern, fully disclose their ingredients and use good manufacturing practices.

Until Congress updates the nation's severely outdated cosmetics laws, Americans will continue to be exposed to toxic and potentially harmful chemicals through their personal care products. Fortunately, bipartisan bills in the House and Senate would finally give the FDA the power to review risky chemicals in our personal care products.

In particular, legislation proposed by Reps. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Leonard Lance, R-N.J., and by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, would require the FDA to start safety reviews of five cosmetics chemicals every year. Among the first five are chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive problems.

The bills would also require cosmetics companies to alert the FDA when their products harm consumers, and would give the FDA the power to stop production and order recalls if a company turns out to be a bad actor. These common-sense rules already apply to other FDA-regulated products like drugs, food and medical devices, as do rules giving the FDA access to company safety records and product ingredient information.

Most cosmetics companies support the bills, including Revlon, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Johnson & Johnson. But some Washington lobbyists who claim to represent small businesses are fighting real reform.

Instead, these lobbyists are pushing legislation that would actually make cosmetics less safe. Their proposal would not require cosmetics companies to ensure the safety of products and would even weaken FDA oversight of some personal care products that are now regulated as over-the-counter drugs.

But the Feinstein-Collins and Pallone-Lance bills both take steps to protect small businesses.

For example, cosmetics companies with less than $100,000 in annual sales would be largely exempt from the new law, and companies with less than $500,000 in annual sales would not pay fees to help finance expanded FDA oversight. What’s more, the bill provides small businesses with more time to comply with new safety rules.

No wonder growing companies like Juice Beauty and California Baby support the Feinstein-Collins and Pallone-Lance bills.

When Congress returns, members have a rare opportunity to finally update the badly outdated cosmetics safety laws. Most cosmetics companies – and the vast majority of consumers – say now is the time to act. We couldn’t agree more.

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