Monday, April 27, 2015

Could the FDA Finally Start Regulating the 126 Chemicals You Use On Your Body on Any Given Day?

Photo Credit: Ariasystems.com

How many personal care products do you use on yourself on any given day?  According to The Environmental Working Group "on average, respondents use nine products daily. These contain 126 unique ingredients. One man in 100 and fully 25 percent of women surveyed apply 15 or more products each day."

What about your children? Sunscreen, diaper cream, shampoo, body wash and lotion?

Most people seek comfort in reasoning that "if a personal care product is on the shelf in stores it must be regulated and tested for safety".  Unfortunately, this is not true.   Right now, in the US, no one is in charge of overseeing the safety of thousands of beauty products.  No one tests chemicals in cosmetics, no one requires safety testing before products reach the consumer market, and no one in the US government has the power to recall beauty products with proven toxic ingredients.

In fact, over10,500 unique chemical ingredients are used in personal care products sold in the US- and some of these ingredients are known or suspected carcinogens, toxic to the reproductive system or known to disrupt the endocrine system.  I kid you not.   LEAD has been found in numerous mainstream lipsticks......as an example.

The EU has banned 1,100 chemicals in cosmetics, while in the US,  the Food and Drug Administration has banned only 11.

 Basically, every time you use a product - on your hair, your body, your face, your hands, your baby,
your kids - day in and day out you are essentially a guinea pig because no one knows what - if any- dangers exposure to hundreds of chemicals (the EWG estimates 126 unique ingredients) may have on your health today, tomorrow or in the future.

Until now- well maybe.  

This week the buzz has been about a proposed amendment to the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act  that would give the Food and Drug Administration  some power ad oversight to regulate chemicals we use all over our bodies every day.  The amendment, introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, is called the Personal Care Products Safety Act.  It might actually pass since it has the support of both some large environmental consumer advocacy groups (EWG among them) as well as the support of some large corporations including Revlon, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Estee Lauder, among others


Among the promising changes:

- Companies would have to provide "cosmetic ingredients statements" which includes more specifics on the category classified by so many as 'fragrance' (which traditionally has been associated with phthalates a known endocrine disruptor) 

- If the FDA determines that a product "has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans" it may suspend the registration of the facility... wich essentially would make the product illegal to sell (Section 607)

- Starting in 2016 the FDA will choose 5 ingredients to personally review for safety.  The first 5 ingredients have already beed established and include Lead acetate, formaldehyde (commonly used in hair straighteners) and  Propyl paraben (very common preservative in a large list of popular cosmetics and cremes. (section 608)

- the FDA shall require labeling of cosmetics that are not  appropriate for use in the entire population, including warnings that vulnerable populations, such as children or pregnant women, should limit or avoid using the product. (Section 614)

Is this bill perfect?  Not really, BUT it is definitely a long overdue step in the right direction.  At the very least it grants the FDA the tools it needs to protect consumers from  some toxic ingredients in their cosmetics.

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