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Chemicals: House Dems reintroduce bill targeting compounds in cosmetics

Chemicals: House Dems reintroduce bill targeting compounds in cosmetics

E & E news

Jeremy P. Jacobs

June 24, 2011

House Democrats today introduced legislation aimed at protecting consumers from harmful chemicals in cosmetic products.

Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin offered the “Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011,” which would require companies to put all of a product’s ingredients on its label.

The measure would also give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to order recalls of products such as lipsticks and body washes that are proven to be harmful to human health or the environment.

“The growing number of reports of serious health problems arising from the use of dangerous chemicals in personal care products show a need to update our laws and protect men, women, and children from harmful exposure,” Schakowsky said in a statement. “Currently, manufacturers are not required to disclose all their ingredients on labels and the FDA has no power to supervise the use of toxic chemicals in cosmetics.”

The bill is nearly identical to legislation offered last Congress. It would require the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct random annual tests of products for harmful substances and would force FDA to produce a list of ingredients that are prohibited from being used in cosmetics.

It would also mandate that cosmetics companies report any cases of adverse health effects associated with a product.

“The personal care products that make us clean should not make us sick,” Markey said. “America’s diaper bags and medicine cabinets should never have to be labeled ‘hazardous to your health’ due to products like creams, conditioners and cosmetics that contain dangerous ingredients.”

The Democrats noted that the cosmetics industry uses approximately 12,500 unique chemicals in cosmetic products. The majority of those chemicals, they said, have never been tested for adverse health effects.

This year’s legislation is slightly different than last year’s bill, the Democrats said, because it seeks to reduce potential burdens on small cosmetics manufacturers.

The legislation targets hair-care products such as the Brazilian Blowout straightening solution. The product has come under fire from lawmakers and regulators after salon workers have suffered eye, nose and throat irritation after using it. Testing has also revealed that the solution contains formaldehyde — a likely carcinogen — despite being labeled “formaldehyde free.”

Last month, a group of House Democrats called on FDA to issue a voluntary recall — the most stringent action it can take — of the product (E&E Daily <http://www.eenews.net/EEDaily/2011/05/11/archive/12> , May 11).

The bill was applauded by public health advocates.

The case of Brazilian Blowout makes it clear that the current law regulating the safety of cosmetics and personal care products is broken, Erin Switalski of the National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance said in a statement. “A large dose of formaldehyde in hair salon products simply shouldn’t be legal and it is. This greatly jeopardizes the health of salon workers.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also issued a “hazard alert” for the Brazilian Blowout solution, citing reports of formaldehyde exposure (Greenwire <http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/2011/04/13/archive/13> , April 13).

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