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European Laws

The European Union, now 25 countries strong, has more stringent and protective laws for cosmetics than the United States. The hazard-based, precautionary approach of the EU acknowledges that chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects simply donít belong in cosmetics Ė regardless of the concentration of the chemical being used.

The United States has much to learn from the EU example. The EU Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) was revised in January 2003 to ban 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics; the U.S. FDA has banned or restricted only 11.

That means that companies are no longer allowed to sell personal care products in the European Union that are made with chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects. The Compact for Safe Cosmetics expanded on the EU laws and asked companies to commit to removing the EU-banned chemicals from products sold in the United States and elsewhere around the world.

The European Union is also proposing to change the way it regulates all chemicals in order to better protect human health. The EU wants to require chemical companies to test chemicals for health effects before they are put on the market. But the Bush Administration worked to stop Europe from passing these protective laws. See a report by Rep. Henry Waxman for more information on U.S. interference with the EU plan to change the way chemicals are regulated.

American consumers deserve the same protection as our neighbors in Europe. However, without the force of law, nothing is stopping U.S. cosmetic companies from producing a safer product for distribution in the EU and a toxic product to sell back home.The United States needs to ramp up its protection of consumers and adopt stronger federal oversight and regulation of chemicals linked to adverse health effects in cosmetics and personal care products sold in the U.S. and globally.

More Information

European Commission: Cosmetics Directive (consolidated; multiple languages)