|Two new laws affect industry and consumers|
by Momo Chang, Oakland Tribune, ANG Newspapers
January 22nd, 2007
As awareness of chemicals in cosmetics has increased, so has the fear of contracting infections from nail salons, as reflected in two new state laws.
SB 484, known as the California Safe Cosmetics Act, went into effect in January and forces cosmetics makers to reveal harmful ingredients, while AB 409 gives a state board the power to yank licenses of salons cited for health and safety codes without a hearing.
The Safe Cosmetics Act, proposed by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, requires cosmetic companies toreveal ingredients that cause cancer or reproductive harm. Some of the products are commonly used in nail salons, such as polishes.
"I'm encouraged to see that the bill is being implemented in the spirit it was written," said Gretchen Lee, senior policy coordinator of San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Fund, a co-sponsor of the bill.
About $500,000 was approved to hire several staff in the Department of Health Services to monitor and implement the bill, according to DHS.
So far, California is the only state that has passed a bill like this, although Oregon is considering a similar bill, Lee said. Canada also recently passed a cosmetic labeling bill that requires makers to list all of their ingredients.
But in other countries, regulations on cosmetics are stricter. In 2003, the European Union banned a list of chemicals commonly used in cosmetics products, including a group of compounds known as phthalates, which are reproductive toxins.
That means nail polishes, shampoos and other personal care products that use these chemical compounds are reformulated for the European market, but still being sold in the U.S.
And it's still legal to use these ingredients, based on Migden's bill. While cosmetic companies are required to disclose the harmful ingredients — many of which were previously considered trade secrets and labeled "fragrance," "flavoring" or "other ingredients" — they aren't required to take them out of the bottles.
Still, perhaps bowing to public pressure and the fact that they would have to reveal their ingredients, several cosmetics makers have voluntarily taken out some of the harmful ingredients.
OPI, one of the leading makers of high-end nail polish — a brand many salons use — has said it will take out dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a reproductive toxin. Sally Hansen followed suit soon after, Lee said.
Other ingredients, such as formaldehyde (a carcinogen) and toluene (linked to birth defects), are still used in many brands, though alternative formulas exist. For a list of companies that have pledged to not use harmful chemicals, visit http://www.safecosmetics.org.
AB 409, sponsored by then-Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco — who was elected in November to a Senate seat — was written specifically to protect consumers after news of bacterial and fungal infections in Bay Area salons.
In 2000, an outbreak of skin boils that infected 100 pedicure customers was linked to one Watsonville salon, while in 2004, an outbreak of skin infections caused by pedicures was linked to 33 salons and 143 customers in Santa Clara County. Yet another outbreak occurred in 2005 in Contra Costa County involving 17 people, according to the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.
The bill was signed by the governor in September and immediately became law — unusual for most state laws, which typically become effective Jan. 1 the following year.
The law gives the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology the power to suspend a salon's license for at least a year — forgoing a hearing with an administrative hearing — if the salon violates any health and safety codes.
Some groups have taken issue with this new law, saying it violates due process.
"(This law) allows the executive officer of the board to unilaterally suspend a cosmetology license without any hearing, without having to put on any evidence to a third party judge," said Julianne D'Angelo Fellmeth of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law. The nonpartisan program monitors state agencies that regulate businesses, professions and trades.
The state board has 18 inspectors to monitor the state's 40,000 cosmetology establishments — hair salons, barber shops, nail salons and spas, officials said. Inspectors typically do 10,000 inspections a year, said Kevin Flanagan, a spokesman for the Department of Consumer Affairs, which includes the cosmetology board.
The board hasn't yet enforced the bill, but is in the process of writing enforcement regulations, which will go through a public commenting period, Flanagan said.
Yee communications director Adam Keigwin said the bill was enacted to protect consumers but not to punish salons. Sanitation practices of salons, he added, are not correlated with price."Most of (the salons) are doing the right thing, but what ends up happening is a couple of bad salons spoil it for the bunch," Keigwin said. "It's not if you go to a salon that's charging $10 or $15 that you're more at risk. You can't judge based on the price of a pedicure whether it's safe or not."