In response to public pressure from recent scandals including mercury in face cream, lead in lipstick and formaldehyde in hair products, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee yesterday convened the first Congressional hearing in 30 years on the safety of cosmetics and personal care products. The hearing was weighted in favor of industry, which represented four of the six witnesses called to testify before committee. No witnesses representing health impacted salon workers or consumers were called to testify.
"Despite the heavy industry influence, safe cosmetics champions Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D – IL) and Ed Markey (D-MA) gave voice to the strong science supporting concerns about toxic chemicals in cosmetics and were staunch advocates for public health, worker safety and consumers' right to know," said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
"This is a critical time for the future of cosmetic safety in the United States. Industry, environmental groups and both parties all seem to agree that the failed 1938 cosmetics laws need to be updated, but the million-dollar question is, will it be meaningful reform or will industry write its own rules and make a bad situation worse?" said Janet Nudelman, policy director of the Breast Cancer Fund.
"Essential public health protections could be set back another 70 years if industry gets away with writing its own laws."
Three legislative proposals are circulating. The Safe Cosmetics Act by Schakowsky, Markey and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is being supported by more than 100 consumer, public health, medical, faith and environmental groups.
A second bill was introduced yesterday, Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Dingle (D-MI). A third proposal by the Personal Care Products Council seeks to have FDA codify into law decisions about ingredient safety made by the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel – a move that would be "unprecedented" and possibly unconstitutional, according to testimony from FDA's representative at the hearing.
Nudelman stressed that meaningful reform includes phasing out cosmetic ingredients linked to cancer, reproductive or developmental toxicity; a safety standard that protects workers, babies and other vulnerable populations; full disclosure of ingredients and FDA authority to recall dangerous products from the market—all of which are elements of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011.