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For Immediate Release: March 21st, 2013
Contact:  Margie Kelly, 541-222-9699, mkelly@breastcancerfund.org; Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org

Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics, Shampoos, Targeted by Congress


Fed. legislation introduced today will ensure all cosmetics are safe

WASHINGTON – While natural body-care products represent the fastest growing segment of the cosmetics market, your local pharmacy shelves are still full of products laden with toxic chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm. To address this problem, today, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013, which would give the Food and Drug Administration authority to ensure that all personal care products are free of harmful ingredients. Existing law, which has not been significantly updated since 1938, has loopholes that allow chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities and other illnesses in products we use on our bodies every day.

“The cosmetics industry has an ugly problem: make-up, shampoos, and lotions are contaminated with toxic chemicals that harm health,” said Janet Nudelman of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Products used every day by men, women, and children contain unsafe chemicals, whether it’s baby shampoos contaminated with cancer-causing formaldehyde, lead in lipsticks or mercury in skin creams. The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 will give the beauty industry a much-needed make-over,” said Nudelman.

Because of the growing consumer concern about hazardous chemicals, the natural products sector has been the fastest growing segment of the cosmetics market—even during the recession. This segment is expected to top $11 billion by 2016. Yet industry self-regulation is not working when it comes to making safe shampoos, lotions or diaper creams. Carcinogens, as well as chemicals that harm reproduction and development, can be found in common cosmetics and personal care products made for women, men, and children.

"The simple truth is everyday products that women, men, and children use contain ingredients that can cause cancer as well as reproductive and developmental harm," said Rep. Schakowsky. "Consumers think the Food and Drug Administration is a watchdog preventing harmful ingredients from being in their shampoos, cologne, makeup, deodorants, lotions, and other products, but the truth is, the FDA has little power under current law.  This bill will remedy that by giving FDA the authority to create and enforce a safety standard that will get harmful toxins out of our products."

Rep. Markey applauded the bill:  "The last thing you want to worry about first thing in the morning is whether the products that make us and our children clean and comfortable also contain cancer-causing chemicals. From diaper cream to deodorant, our medicine cabinets are filled with personal care products that may contain harmful ingredients. This bill will help close the gaping holes in federal law that allow companies to use potentially untested and unsafe ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products. Consumers deserve to have confidence that the products they use every day use will not harm them.”

The legislation will:

  • Phase out ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm
  • Create a health-based safety standard that includes protections for children, the elderly, workers and other vulnerable populations
  • Close labeling loopholes by requiring full ingredient disclosure, including salon products and the constituent ingredients of fragrance, on product labels and company websites
  • Give workers access to information about unsafe chemicals in personal care products
  • Require data sharing to avoid duplicative testing and encourage the development of alternatives to animal testing
  • Provide adequate funding for the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors so it has the resources it needs for effective oversight of the cosmetics industry
  • Level the playing field so small businesses can compete fairly
"Families shouldn't have to bring a toxicologist with them to the make-up aisle to feel safe,” said Cindy Luppi, Clean Water Action’s New England Director. “We stand in support of modernized personal care product policies together with a host of small business innovators who share our concern that the U.S. is lagging behind other countries across the globe in terms of safety.”

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has raised awareness of toxic dangers lurking in common products intended for women and children including lead in lipstick and formaldehyde in baby shampoo. However, toxic chemicals are equal opportunity contaminants, with men’s products hosting a number of dangerous chemicals. A search of the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database finds that at least five men’s hair products, including men’s hair color and conditioner, contain lead acetate, which is banned or found unsafe for use in cosmetics in Canada and the European Union. The state of California recognizes lead acetate as a developmental and reproductive toxicant. Five men’s hair dyes contain toluene, which is a volatile petrochemical that is a potent neurotoxicant and a possible carcinogen. Twelve products, including dandruff shampoos, contain coal tar, which is a carcinogen that is banned or found unsafe for use in cosmetics in Canada and the EU. More than 170 eye makeup products contain the colorant carbon black, which is not approved by FDA for cosmetics used around eyes.

“When there are cancer-causing chemicals and neurotoxins in the products we’re using on our skin every day, you know the regulatory system is broken,” said Nudelman. “Industry self-regulation just isn’t working. This bill recognizes that consumers have a right to safe personal care products and that companies have a responsibility to ensure their products are safe.”

Advocates for consumers and workers support the new legislation. Jamie McConnell, Director of Programs and Policy at Women’s Voices for the Earth said, “This bill provides commonsense protections for not only consumers but those working in the salon industry who are exposed to toxic chemicals on a daily basis. For example formaldehyde is a chemical that has been banned for use in professional hair straighteners in other countries, but because of our lax laws, is still permitted in the U.S. Passage of this bill is long overdue.”


For more info: www.safecosmetics.org/safecosmeticsact

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The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a national coalition of more than 175 nonprofit organizations working to protect the health of consumers and workers by eliminating dangerous chemicals from cosmetics. www.safecosmetics.org