Mercury in face creams. Formaldehyde in hair products. Lead in lipstick. It’s about time lawmakers paid attention. For the first time in 30 years, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will convene the first official Congressional hearing on cosmetics safety, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The hearing, which will take place on March 27, is expected to review existing federal cosmetics laws, which haven’t been updated since 1938—or since Franklin D. Roosevelt was president.
SAFETY FOR ALL
“It’s time for Congress to overhaul the 1938 cosmetic regulations that are utterly failing to protect public health,” says Janet Nudelman, policy director of the Breast Cancer Fund, a founding member of the campaign. “Personal-care products from deodorants to lotions to baby shampoos contain chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, and other health problems,”
Advocates are urging Congress for “meaningful regulations” the phase out ingredients linked to cancer and reproductive or developmental toxicity.
A recent example of lackluster oversight is Brazilian Blowout, a line of hair-straightening products that remains on salon shelves despite their link with cancer-causing formaldehyde gas. (The brand is banned in Australia, Canada, Ireland, France, and Germany for that reason.) Although the California Attorney General forced Brazilian Blowout to include warnings on its product labels, an undercover investigation by Good Morning America revealed that 16 out of 16 salons it visited failed to inform their customers about the risks.
The hearing was announced shortly after 50 businesses and 50 environmental groups sent a letter to the Energy and Commerce Committee urging for “meaningful regulations” that phase out cosmetic ingredients linked to cancer and reproductive or developmental toxicity, along with safety standards that require the full disclosure of ingredients such as fragrances, flavorings, colorants, and salon products. A similar proposal was made in the Safe Cosmetics Act, a bill introduced into Congress in 2011.
“We hope this is a moment when Congress can rise above partisan politics as usual and take a step forward to better protect our health,” says Cindy Luppi, New England Director for Clean Water Action, which co-signed the letter. “Thanks to our legislative champions for leading the charge on this critical health issue.”