With health care reform, food safety and a midterm election top of mind among lawmakers and regulators, it could be a quiet year when it comes to regulatory changes in the personal care products industry.
“We are so bogged down right now with other issues, I don’t know that anything directly related to personal care is going to bubble up to the surface,” says Daniel Fabricant, PhD, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Washington-D.C.-based Natural Products Association.
Nonetheless, efforts to address organic labeling, toxic ingredients and nanotechnology continue at the state level, among advocacy groups and overseas. Here’s a look:
Finland, Minn.-based Organic Consumers Association joined forces with PC product manufacturers Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Intelligent Nutrients and Organic Essence to file a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program on Jan. 14, requesting action on what it calls “blatantly deceptive labeling practices” by 12 companies that use the word organic on their labels. “We are asking that organic body care be regulated the same as food, and that the word organic not be used on anything that is not certified organic,” says OCA Political Director Alexis-Baden Mayer. The USDA complaint is intended to nudge the agency to act on a November 2009 recommendation by the National Organic Standards Board that it “solve the problem of mislabeled organic personal care products.” Since March 2008, the OCA and Dr. Bronner’s have also filed lawsuits and launched boycotts to prohibit use of the word organic on anything other than USDA-certified products. At press time, those suits had yet to be resolved.
In November 2009, the European Union passed a law that will require all cosmetics and sunscreens using nanomaterials to state it on the label. Companies must also notify the EU Commission six months before placing a nano-containing product on the market, and submit safety data if requested. In the United States, Friends of the Earth, Consumers Union and the International Center for Technology Assessment have all filed petitions with the Food and Drug Administration asking for similar measures.
The California Safe Cosmetics Act, passed in 2005, requires manufacturers to submit to the California Department of Public Health a list of any ingredients known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. Stalled by budget woes, the CDPH finally launched its online reporting program June 15, 2009. According to the CDPH website, a list of submitted products will be made available any day. Meanwhile, in Washington, as of July 1, 2009, the Kids Safe Products Act prohibits the use of lead, cadmium and phthalates in children’s products, and requires manufacturers to report other ingredients linked to children’s health risks. Several other states, including Massachusetts, are pursuing similar measures. –L.M.