The saying “you get what you pay for” is not currently true in the cosmetic industry. Words like “natural”, “chemical free”, “organic” or products labeled by the industry as “best products”, “best sellers” or “best brands” are not always true. US federal law allows companies to exclude many chemicals on labels, including nanomaterials, ingredients considered trade secrets, and fragrance components that contain harmful chemicals. As consumers, we are often led to believe that we are buying a very expensive product that will do wonders for us. However, we are often unaware of label reading and ingredient linking to cancer-causing agents. Although we may be buying a very high quality product, we may also be contributing to the deterioration of our health due to the continuous exposure of chemicals in our skin that invade our bodies.
In the United States, more than 500 products sold contain ingredients prohibited in cosmetics in Japan, Canada, or the European Union. Additionally, nearly 100 products contain ingredients deemed unsafe by the International Fragrance Association. Additionally, 22% of all personal care products may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a cancer-causing impurity, including many children’s products. More than 60% of sunscreens contain the potential hormone disruptor oxybenzone that penetrates the skin and contaminates the bodies of 97% of Americans. Lastly, 61% of lipstick brands tested contain lead residue.
Unlike the United States, the European Union (EU), now made up of 25 countries, has stricter and more protective laws for cosmetics. In fact, the EU Cosmetics Directive (76/768 / EEC) bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics; the US FDA has banned or restricted only 11 of those 1,328 chemicals.
One state that has taken the lead in banning chemicals is California. In 2005, California became the first US state to pass state legislation governing the safety and reporting of cosmetic ingredients. As a result, the California Cosmetics Safe Act requires manufacturers to disclose to the state any chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects. This database is open to the public. The state took action against a company called Brazillian Blowout in November 2010 when it filed a lawsuit for high formaldehyde content in its hair straightening products.
As consumers, we must help the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA), the agency charged with overseeing cosmetics, by encouraging Congress to pass more stringent requirements. To this day, the FDA does not have the authority to require premarket safety assessments (which are often performed on drugs, medical devices, and biological items). Therefore, cosmetics are among the least regulated products on the market. The fact is, 89 percent of all cosmetic ingredients have NOT been evaluated for safety by any publicly responsible institution.
Take a stand and get involved in creating a safer line of cosmetic products for the good of our people and the planet. Support companies like Johnson & Johnson that have pledged to reduce their use of carcinogens in products by 2015. Support the Safe Personal Care Products and Cosmetics Act of 2013 (HR 1385), introduced on March 21, 2013 by representatives. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. and Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, which is designed to give the US Food and Drug Administration authority to ensure personal care products are free of harmful ingredients and ingredients are fully disclosed. The provisions of the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act 2013 include:
1) Elimination of ingredients related to cancer, birth defects and developmental damage;
2) Creation of a health-based safety standard that includes protections for children, the elderly, workers, and other vulnerable populations;
4) Elimination of labeling gaps by requiring full ingredient disclosure on product labels and company websites, including salon products and constituent fragrance ingredients;
5) Workers’ access to information on hazardous chemicals in personal care products;
6) Data sharing necessary to avoid duplication of tests and encourage the development of alternatives to animal testing; Y
7) Adequate funding for the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors so that you have the resources you need to provide effective oversight of the cosmetics industry.
Join the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (http://safecosmetics.org). Finally, support companies that promote natural and chemical-free products.