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The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee may have convened the first Congressional hearing on cosmetics safety in more than 30 years, but the manufacturing industry isn’t about to give up its primacy without a fight. The hearing, which took place March 27, examined three legislative proposals, including one that would grant recall authority to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for personal-care products with “adverse health consequences” and another that would give cosmetics manufacturers unlimited power till the end of time (we’re paraphrasing, obviously). It should surprise no one that the proceedings were heavily skewed in favor of the industry, which made up four of the six witnesses who testified, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The number of witnesses representing health-affected salon workers or consumers? Zilch, zero, nada.
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In addition to the original cosmetics safety bill, which was introduced last year by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and the Cosmetics Safety Enhancement Act, a bill that Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Dingle (D-MI) authored to push for stricter FDA oversight, industry representatives had a proposal of their own.
An industry group wants the FDA to codify into law decisions about ingredient safety made by an industry-funded panel.
The Personal Care Products Council, a cosmetics trade group whose members include Estée Lauder, L’Oreal, and Procter & Gamble, wants the FDA to codify into law decisions about ingredient safety made by the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel. Such a move, according to Michael Landa, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and a witness who testified, would be “unprecedented” and possibly unconstitutional.
More evidence this is a bad idea: Michael DiBartolomeis, Ph.D. toxicologist and head of the Safe Cosmetics Program for the California Department of Public Health, testified that after the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005 made reporting suspect ingredients mandatory, companies have submitted 17,060 personal care products with one or more of 96 carcinogens or reproductive toxicants.
“Essential public health protections could be set back another 70 years if industry gets away with writing its own laws that put industry profits over public health,” says Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy at the Breast Cancer Fund, a founding member of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Nudelman calls for “meaningful reform” that includes phasing out cosmetics ingredients linked to cancer or reproductive and developmental toxicity; a safety standard that protects workers, babies, and other vulnerable populations; full disclosure of ingredients lists; and FDA authority to remove dangerous protects from the market. “Anything less than this will fail to protect the public from the worst toxic chemicals that are lurking in our most intimate products,” she adds.