New and Improved: Safe Cosmetics Act 2011 - FINALLY!
Last year, I wrote an article about the Cosmetics and Fragrance industries and their lack of regulation. This lack of regulation allows the infusion of extremely dangerous chemicals into our everyday products. Haven't you ever considered that the increase in health problems in the United States, such as autism, cancer, etc. could potentially be caused by our environment - our products, our food?
It looks like FINALLY the Safe Cosmetics Act that was introduced in 2010 is getting a facelift and would change legislations governing cosmetics that haven't been changed since 1938!!! Even more exciting is that companies that produce fragrances will have to disclose their ingredients list! Why is this such a big deal? It is a big deal because the word "fragrance" on products ranging from our perfumes and colognes to our children's shampoo and lotions is an umbrella phrase that is used to encompass the use of over 3,100 chemicals!!
Here is an article taken from the Forbes.com blog that discusses all of the specifics of this great new legislations! Kudos Washington!
When the Safe Cosmetics Act–a bill that proposed updating the Cosmetics section of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to require companies to disclose harmful ingredients and give the Food & Drug Administration the power to recall products–was first introduced in 2010, it wasn’t big companies that protested, but small-to-medium size businesses that felt the registration and fees required by the legislation represented too heavy of a financial burden. The bill’s authors, led by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and sponsors [Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)] went to work engaging small businesses and redrafting the legislation to address their concerns. The resulting Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, introduced Friday afternoon, eliminates fees for businesses making less than $10 million, and exempts businesses making less than $2 million from registration.
However, the 2011 bill, which, if passed, would change legislation governing cosmetics for the first time since 1938, goes further than exemptions from paperwork and fees to cozy up to businesses. “We’ve worked with these companies for years–there are 1800 companies that have signed on to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics–so we don’t see this as an us versus them situation,” says Janet Nudelman, legislation coordinator for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and director of program and policy for Breast Cancer Fund. “If the bill isn’t going to work for the companies that have to implement it, then it’s not going to work for consumers or for public health, and I say that as a public health advocate.”
To that end, the revised bill also includes revisions to stipulations governing safety testing, labeling, and disclosure of contaminants. While the 2010 act required safety testing, it was unclear as to who would be required to conduct this testing. Given that most cosmetics and personal care companies buy their chemical ingredients from other suppliers (Exxon Mobil and Dow Chemical among them), the 2011 bill puts the onus on suppliers to supply manufacturers with up-to-date safety tests. “Most of the suppliers are doing these tests themselves already, they’re just not required to make the results public,” Nudelman explains.
The safety testing stipulation carries over into another key area of disclosure–under the new proposed legislation, suppliers of fragrances and flavors would have to disclose their ingredient lists. Historically these industries have been exempted from such disclosure as their formulas are protected as trade secrets. “If I as a cosmetics company have to disclose my ingredients on a label, why shouldn’t fragrance companies?” says Rebecca Hamilton, director of product development for New Hampshire-based W.S. Badger Company, which manufactures assorted body care products.
In fact, such disclosure could actually be a boon to fragrance and flavor companies, particularly those that avoid any potentially harmful ingredients. Hamilton says her company has long wanted to incorporate fragrances and flavors into its products, but has steered clear because suppliers of such ingredients are not transparent about what’s in them.
“We believe in transparency– that’s a big part of our brand value–so if we don’t know what the ingredients are we don’t know if there’s something in there that would be harmful, and we won’t use those sorts of ingredients in our products,” she says. “This [the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011] would take away the secrecy around fragrance and flavor, and would allow us to use these products that we’d like to use if their ingredient lists were more transparent.”
Nudelman says other companies are pleased with this part of the Act as well. “We call this the Producer Right-to-Know, and the companies we’re working with are quite pleased with it,” she says. “We always talk about consumers’ right-to-know, but producers have a right to know as well–they are the ones that will be held liable if a harmful ingredient sneaks into their product.”
The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 also deals with a labeling complaint some business had with the 2010 version–for certain products the ingredient list is too long and the product is too small to fit absolutely everything on the label, so the revised bill would authorize the FDA to stipulate whether a product’s ingredients need to go on the label or can be posted on a company’s website. The final big revision is in the area of contaminants disclosure: The first time around, companies were concerned that there are so many ingredients that could potentially be contaminants that if there was no one, agreed-upon list they’d be hard-pressed to meet the Safe Cosmetics Act’s requirement of disclosing all contaminants in a product. The 2011 version of the bill clarifies that the FDA is required to create a list of contaminants likely to be found in cosmetics and provide guidance to companies about which to test for and which need to be on the label.
But while some small businesses may feel their needs have been addressed, not everyone is ready to embrace the Safe Cosmetics Act. ThePersonal Care Products Council, a trade association representing the cosmetics and personal care industries (members include the Estee Lauder Companies, L’Oreal USA, and Procter & Gamble Cosmetics, among many others), had this to say in an official response to the bill:
“We are still reviewing the provisions of Rep. Schakowsky’s new bill, but we are very concerned that the approach outlined in it will further strain FDA and inevitably raise costs for business and consumers at a time when our companies, which have a superior safety track record that spans decades, need business certainty more than ever to continue to innovate, grow their businesses, and create new manufacturing jobs in the U.S.”
Hamilton, however, argues that stricter U.S. regulations will help bring the United States in line with other countries, many of which already require labeling, disclosure and testing similar to that required by the Safe Cosmetics Act.
“I’d like to be able to say, ‘I manufacture in the U.S.’ and have that be good enough because we have such high standards,” she says. “Instead, in a lot of countries they look down on any cosmetics and personal care products made in the U.S. because we don’t have high standards. We have to go and get additional certifications, and go that extra mile to show the quality of our products in other countries. We’d really like to see a higher baseline here in general so that it’s assumed products made here are safe.”
For its part, the Personal Care Products Council says it agrees that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act needs to be modernized. To that end, it is working with the House Energy & Commerce Committee leadership to propose what it calls, “reasonable, science-based changes to the law that will meaningfully enhance cosmetics regulation without over-burdening FDA or imposing costly and unnecessary restrictions on business.”
“Why is the Personal Care Products Council working with the Energy and Commerce Committee to draft safe cosmetics legislation when Reps. Schakowsky, Markey and Baldwin just introduced exactly the kind of science-based, business-friendly bill they say they want?” asks Nudelman. “Their time would be much better spent working to get this bill signed into law so the American people can get the safer products they want and deserve.”
By most accounts, this time around the Safe Cosmetics Act has a better chance of passage than any similar legislation has had in the past. As stories highlighting potentially dangerous ingredients such asformaldehyde, heavy metals (lead, cadmium and arsenic), and phthalatesin personal care products used regularly by everyone from adult men and women to pre-pubescent girls, it’s becoming increasingly unappealing for politicians to appear to be against such legislation. Moreover, few businesses, particularly those in the health and beauty realm, want to be seen as against safe ingredients, and all seem to agree that the FDA’s regulatory mandate needs to be updated. How pretty that modernization is remains to be seen, but no matter what, this could be a very good moment for those in the green chemistry business.