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For Immediate Release: April 23rd, 2012
Contact:  Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org, Stephenie Hendricks, 415-258-9151, stephdh@gmail.com

Industry-backed Cosmetics Safety Bill a Trojan Horse, Will Set Back Cosmetics Safety

(Washington, DC)—Health and consumer groups denounced today the Cosmetic Safety Amendments Act of 2012, introduced last week by Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), as an affront to consumer and worker health. Written by the cosmetics industry trade association, the bill will codify much of the current system that allows the industry to “self-regulate” the safety of cosmetics which has resulted in public-health scandals including formaldehyde in hair products and mercury in face creams.

“This bill was written by the Personal Care Products Council, a trade association that represents the big multinational cosmetic companies, and does nothing more than provide a rubber stamp for industry to continue placing profits over public health,” said Janet Nudelman, program and policy director at the Breast Cancer Fund. “True cosmetic safety legislation needs to have a strong science-based safety standard that protects children, pregnant women, workers and other vulnerable populations; requires full disclosure of ingredients; and gives the FDA the ability to recall dangerous products. These are all elements of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, introduced last year by Representatives Jan Schakowsky, Ed Markey, and Tammy Baldwin, but are conspicuously missing from industry’s bill.”

The bill, H.R. 4395, contains two particularly dangerous provisions: Decisions on cosmetics safety would continue to be made by the industry-funded Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIR) panel, but would be binding on FDA– a classic case of the “fox guarding the henhouse.” At the March 27 Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Hearing on cosmetics, Michael Landa, Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at FDA, stated that legislation codifying ingredient safety decisions made by the CIR would be “unprecedented” and possibly unconstitutional.

The industry bill would also pre-empt states’ rights to pass more health protective cosmetic safety laws and would eliminate the California Safe Cosmetics Program which forces companies to disclose the presence of cancer-causing chemicals and reproductive toxins in products sold in California, as well as any other state program in existence now or in the future, that could provide additional public health protections. 

“This bill is a ‘Trojan horse’ – it may sound nice on the outside but the dirty details inside would lock in the failed status quo allowing industry to continue to write its own rules on safety,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Everyone agrees we need to overhaul the outdated and ineffective 1938 cosmetics law, but this legislation does not protect consumers or workers and would handcuff states from taking action to protect the health of women, children, babies and workers. From toxic nail polish to carcinogens in baby shampoo, American consumers are fed-up with the system that allows industry to self-regulate, and this bill wouldn’t change that.”

“For the millions of families like mine dealing directly with cancer and other chronic illness, any cosmetics safety legislation is not worth the paper it's printed on if it fails to phase out the most dangerous chemicals in cosmetics, especially those linked to cancer or reproductive harm,” said Cindy Luppi, New England director of Clean Water Action.

Dozens of businesses and nonprofit organizations agree on the need for meaningful, health protective reform. In a Feb. 17 letter to the Energy and Commerce Committee, 50 businesses and 50 environmental health, consumer, worker and public interest groups urged the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee to support meaningful regulations that phase out cosmetic ingredients linked to cancer, reproductive or developmental toxicity; create a safety standard for cosmetics; and require full disclosure of ingredients including fragrance and salon products.

“We’re pleased the Energy and Commerce Committee is seriously considering regulating the cosmetics industry, which is currently allowed to use chemicals that have hardly been studied at all in personal care products,” said Jane Houlihan, senior vice president for research of the Environmental Working Group. “However, this legislation would not achieve the goal of getting cancer-causing chemicals and other harmful toxic chemicals out of the products we put on our bodies.”

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The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition of more than 150 nonprofit organizations working to protect the health of consumers and workers by eliminating dangerous chemicals from cosmetics. Core members include: Clean Water Action, the Breast Cancer Fund, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and Women’s Voices for the Earth. www.safecosmetics.org