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For Immediate Release: June 24th, 2011
Contact:  Stacy Malkan, 202-321-6963, stacy@safecosmetics.org; Stephenie Hendricks, 415-258-9151, stephdh@earthlink.net; Leeann Brown, 202-939-9146, leeann@ewg.org

New Bill to Modernize 1938 Regulations that Allow Harmful Chemicals in Shampoos, Cosmetics

WASHINGTON; June 24, 2011 – Today, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., joined by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 (H.R.2359), which would give the Food and Drug Administration authority to ensure that personal care products such as shampoo and cosmetics are free of harmful ingredients. Existing law, which has not been 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 growing number of reports of serious health problems arising from the use of dangerous chemicals in personal care products shows a need to update our laws and protect men, women, and children from harmful exposure,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “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. Americans are left in the dark about harmful mystery ingredients in personal care products; consumers deserve confidence that the products that they use will not hurt them.”

Recent scandals that have rocked the cosmetics industry illustrate Representative Schakowsky’s point. Last month, environmental health groups released results of laboratory tests that found high levels of heavy metals including arsenic and lead in lip gloss and many other personal care products. In April the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warned salons to stop using keratin hair-straightening products, including Brazilian Blowout, that contain the carcinogen formaldehyde and have been linked to acute reactions such as hair loss, nose bleeds and breathing problems.

At a recent Congressional briefing, salon workers and environmental health advocates asked members of Congress to take action and support this legislation, and 10 Congressional representatives sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration directing them to investigate the problems with chemical hair straighteners.

“When there are cancer-causing chemicals in popular hair-straighteners and baby shampoos and neurotoxins like lead in makeup, you know the regulatory system is broken,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “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.”

All three lead sponsors of the bill are members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where the bill will get its first hearing. Rep. Markey applauded the bill: “The personal care products that make us clean should not make us sick. 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 Safe Cosmetics Act will close a gaping hole in the federal law that allows potentially toxic chemicals to remain in the cosmetics products we use every day. I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this much-needed legislation forward.”

Rep. Baldwin added, “The health risks caused by harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde in cosmetics products demonstrate the pressing need to see that the products we use are safe. The Safe Cosmetics Act is critical to ensuring that personal care products do not compromise the health of workers and consumers.”

This bill includes updates to last year’s bill aimed at ensuring cosmetics safety while being more effective and manageable for smaller companies, which are innovating many of the safer alternatives already on the market.

Small-business leaders also voiced their support for the bill. Rebecca Hamilton, Director of Product Development at the Badger body-care company, said, “We want to make the safest products possible for our customers. This legislation creates a floor of safety for the industry and guarantees that all companies are playing by the same rules, supporting the efforts of companies raising the bar for sustainability and safety in the marketplace and increasing demand for safer products.”

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

For more info: www.safecosmetics.org/safecosmeticsact

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The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition of more than 150 nonprofit organizations working to protect the health of consumers and workers by eliminating dangerous chemicals from cosmetics. Core members include: Clean Water Action, the Breast Cancer Fund, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and Women’s Voices for the Earth.