On June 24, 2011, 12 members of the House of Representatives proposed a bill, H.R. 2359, “The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011”, “to ensure the safe use of cosmetics, and for other purposes”. (other purposes?……)
Ensuring the safe use of cosmetics for consumers sounds great, right?
Depending on which website you check out, you will get opposing and supporting views for H.R 2359.
Obviously, the big main cosmetic industries are opposed because it means impossible strictness in labeling, and dozens of other regulations that would cost millions of dollars to comply with. This cost, of course would be passed to you, the consumer, which would mean higher prices for cosmetics.
Supporters mean well, I’m sure, but it appears they would rather leave the act of choosing your personal care product to the government (because after all, the government know best). The sponsors (congressional reps) of the bill are also aware, I am sure, that 2012 is an election year, and they had better get something solid on their resume to show their constituents they care about them so they will be assured of a next term. Even if this bill dies, they can say “I proposed legislation that would have protected children and the elderly from harm at the hands of big business!!” Statements like that get votes.
I absolutely agree with government intervention when it comes to identifying harmful substances and prohibiting them from products that would expose us to harm. I certainly don’t want lead in my paint (or lipstick), and I don’t want asbestos in my kid’s school. That said, there are hundreds of substances that don’t meet the criteria of “causing harm”, but could be banned under the Cosmetic Safety Act of 2011.
It’s ironic that 2 weeks before I announce my personal venture to provide a great choice for safe and effective personal care products, H.R. 3259 gets introduced into the House for consideration to become a law as this law would ruin me before I start. (For those of you who were sleeping during 9th grade Social Studies, the bill has to be passed by the House and the Senate to become a law. The president has the option to veto or refuse the bill, and if the House and Senate vote with a 2/3 majority they can override the veto.)
I spent the last 3 days looking at H.R. 2359 in it’s entirety and reading opposing and supporting views. I have come the conclusion that if this bill, the way it stands now, is passed, I will not be able to continue with my skin care line as hoped. This bill, if it becomes law, will also shut down most of the independent small businesses that make wonderful organic, safe products for you.
Here are the good points of the bill:
- 613 (a): all cosmetics must have ingredient labels and must list all ingredients in descending order of predominance. This is already a law, and just needs to be enforced.
- 615 (c) (2) (A): The head of the monitoring department will “monitor developments in the scientific understanding from any adverse health effects related to the use of nanotechnology in the formulate of cosmetics”. Nanoparticles are substances that are so small, that they go directly into your body when applied. Some substances (like titanium dioxide) when in nano-form, have been shown to cause an increase in cancer tumor activity, lung problems, and inflammatory responses. If you need some deep reading, here is a great article describing nanos and why they may be harmful.
I like the fact that someone would be monitoring nano’s as they are becoming more prevalent in today’s products. But I’m not sure what “monitoring” means. (reading articles that are written on the subject?)
- 624: Animal Testing Alternatives: While I am not a member of PETA, I am in favor of alternative testing methods for cosmetic safety. The wording is a bit vague, however: “require and/or encourage, where practical, alternative testing methods…..to animal testing”. Require and encourage are two very different words.
- 627: Interagency Cooperation: all government agencies including FDA, CDC, NIH, OSHA, and EPA will share information on harmful products. Communication is good in this case.
Now For The Bad….
There is so much bad, that I am just going to hit the main points.
- 612 (a) (1) all companies involved in the manufacture or packaging of cosmetics needs register with the government and pay fees to the agency. This is usually where the government gets the money to fund the department needed to keep up with all the paperwork for the regulations. But unfortunately, for the consumer, that means the companies have to pass on that cost to you. Small businesses making less than $2,000,000/year are exempt from registration.
- 614 (a) (2) (A) standards shall insure that the likely level of exposure from all sources of ingredients present not more than 1 in a million risk for any adverse health effect in any vulnerable population. Hmmm… adverse health effect….does that mean a rash? By the way, “vulnerable population” is defined as infants, children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune functions. So in effect, an 85 year old man that put lotion on his legs at 8 am, gets a rash at 10 am, that man can report the rash as an “adverse health effect” of the lotion, and my product could be pulled?
- 615 (a) (1) & (2) Required submission of all safety information. For every ingredient, regardless if it is a substance that million of people eat every day (like olive oil) I am required to submit safety data sheets including safety tests on that ingredient. I am also required to test the cosmetic. Safety testing can cost anywhere from $2500 – $4000 per item depending on the type of testing. I have 6 products that I am starting out selling. I would have to come up with at least $15,000 to “test” products with ingredients like sunflower oil, essential oil of spearmint and salt. There is no way I could afford this, and why do I have to test products that are known to be safe? I don’t see a way around this in the wording of the legislation.
- 620 (c) Order to cease distribution: if the secretary (the government agency) has reason to believe that the use of a cosmetic may cause serious adverse health effects or death to humans (has anyone ever died from cosmetics?) the secretary has the authority to issue an order to immediately cease distribution. The thing about this is the cosmetic does not have to actually harm someone. If the the agency “has reason to believe” that the ingredient “may” cause harm. So….if they hear from their cousins’ best friend that cinnamon oil can cause a rash, they can shut you down? Oh one good thing is they give you 24 hours to appeal. How many orders do you think will be issued at 5pm on a Friday?
- 613 (c) Special rule for contaminants (they word “contaminant” is used often, but was not defined in the definition section–I am assuming it is a known harmful substance) the contaminant must be listed on the label if it is at a level that is greater than one part per billion by weight. (1 part per billion is one penny in $10,000,000) If I were to put tap water in my recipe, I would have to list lead (10 parts per billion), as well as chlorine, copper, flouride, and coliform bacteria as ingredients in my product and provide data sheets and testing on all these ingredients the way the bill is worded now.
What’s the answer?A spotlight on this subject is a good start, but the bill as it is proposed now just makes it harder to provide consumers with truly safe cosmetics and personal care products. It also makes it harder to find out if there is indeed a link between certain cancers and preservatives, for example.Why not take the money that would be spent on the formation of another government agency, paperwork, and personnel, and put it towards sound scientific studies to look at the relationships between certain cosmetic substances and illnesses as we just don’t have that concrete evidence yet?
If you look for information on the web about the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, consider the source of the piece and consider whether big corporate money or big environmental money is behind the opinion of the writer.
As for me, it’s not enough that I want to give consumers natural effective products that they can use without worry. I will just have to wait to see what happens, and let the passing (or not) of the “Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011” decide my fate.
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