Toxic Makeup Draws Congressional Attention

Lawmakers are debating whether the FDA should regulate makeup more strictly.

July 22, 2010, 2:12 PM

July 22, 2010— -- Congress and the cosmetics industry are both calling for tighter regulation of the chemicals used in cosmetics and other personal care products due to concerns over possible carcinogens and other toxic ingredients.

In Congress, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) introduced a bill on Tuesday calling for cosmetics makers to register with the federal government and for larger cosmetics firms to pay user fees to enforce the regulation. The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 also would require all ingredients in a cosmetic product to be listed on the product's label and would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services two years to develop a list of prohibited or restricted ingredients.

Cosmetics manufacturers would be required to notify the federal government of consumers who reported experiencing adverse health effects from their cosmetics and to use alternatives to animal testing of products.

Schakowsky said during a teleconference Wednesday that she introduced her bill -- which was cosponsored by Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) -- because "Americans need to know that their cosmetics and personal care products don't contain chemicals that could harm them."

She noted that cosmetics manufacturers aren't currently required to list all their ingredients on the package, "and when investigators have gone looking, they have turned up toxic chemicals: A recent Chicago Tribune investigation sent skin lightening creams to a lab for testing and found dangerous levels of mercury -- a banned substance -- in some of the products."

Schakowsky said that current cosmetics laws are "woefully out of date, and Americans are at risk of being unknowingly exposed to harmful chemicals."

For its part, the Personal Care Products Council, a lobbying group for cosmetics manufacturers, released its own plan for regulation in mid-July, which included requiring all cosmetics manufacturing facilities to register with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to disclose all product ingredients to the FDA, and to report any serious adverse events to the agency. It also would require the FDA to establish safe levels for trace constituents in cosmetic ingredients and products.

Cosmetics Safety May Come Under FDA Scrutiny

The agency also would be required to review the safety of any ingredients used in cosmetics and other personal care products and establish "good manufacturing practice" requirements. The council detailed its proposal in a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to pass the legislation needed to enforce the proposed rules.

Council president and CEO Lezlee Westine said in a statement that although cosmetics "remain among the safest in the marketplace ... Nonetheless, we believe it is time to develop a more contemporary approach that includes a greater federal regulatory role ... Our consumers deserve multiple layers of protection and transparency."

Schakowsky said in an email to MedPage Today that she was glad the council saw a need for increased oversight, "particularly given the fact that at the moment, they have virtual free rein to put dangerous chemicals into their products with very little federal intervention." But she said she didn't want the council's letter to overshadow her bill.

"This legislation requires real FDA oversight and relies on independent scientific analysis by the FDA of the manufacturers claims about which ingredients are safe," she said. "And, most importantly, that safety standard would ban entirely the use of dangerous chemicals in cosmetics -- something the cosmetics industry opposes."

Better regulation of cosmetics also is the focus of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which on Thursday released a video urging consumers to lobby for safer cosmetic products. The campaign, founded by a coalition of groups including Clean Water Action, the Breast Cancer Fund, and Friends of the Earth, said in a press release that endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and other toxic chemicals are found in many personal care products, including lipstick and baby shampoo.

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