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For Immediate Release: February 28th, 2012
Contact:  Stephenie Hendricks, 415-258-9151, stephdh@gmail.com; Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org

Obama Budget Calls for Increased FDA Oversight of Cosmetics Industry, Personal Care Products

Environmental Health Groups Applaud Obama; Urge Legislative Action

Washington – The Obama administration’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year calls for an additional $19 million in funding through user fees to enable the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to more effectively regulate cosmetics, signaling the White House’s acknowledgement that the agency’s current oversight is inadequate to protect consumers.

Recent scandals that have rocked the cosmetics industry illustrate the lack of consumer protection: formaldehyde in Brazilian Blowout hair straightener, lead in L’Oreal lipstick, and carcinogens in Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, to name a few.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which has conducted product-testing that has helped reveal the breadth of the problem of unregulated cosmetics, applauded the White House for the proposed budget and called it an important first step in fixing the broken system that allows hazardous chemicals in cosmetics. But, says Janet Nudelman, interim director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and director of program and policy at the Breast Cancer Fund, “We need to go further. Congress must update the 1938 cosmetics regulations to give the FDA meaningful authority to keep harmful chemicals out of the personal care products we put on our bodies.”

On February 17, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics delivered a letter signed by 100 cosmetics companies and nonprofit environmental health organizations to the Energy and Commerce Committee, calling for increased regulation of the cosmetics industry. The groups and businesses urged legislation that would phase out ingredients linked to cancer and reproductive harm, require full disclosure of cosmetic ingredients, and create a sliding-scale fee structure with exemptions for small businesses.

These elements are included in the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 (H.R.2359), sponsored by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., which would overhaul the 1938 law that cedes decisions about ingredient safety to the cosmetics industry. Under the current law, the FDA can't require cosmetics companies to conduct safety assessments, and can’t even require product recalls. In a recent example, the FDA could not issue a mandatory recall of Brazilian Blowout hair-straightening products even after they were found to contain dangerous levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde. The products were banned over a year ago by Canada and other countries, but are still being used in salons across America, despite warnings by the FDA and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“We urge Congress to take immediate action to pass the Safe Cosmetics Act, which will finally give the FDA the authority it needs to require pre-market safety assessment as it does with food and drugs. The legislation will ensure cosmetics are no longer among the least-regulated products on the market,” Nudelman said.

According to the White House budget statement, “Every day, Americans use a wide variety of cosmetic products, including skin moisturizers, perfumes, lipsticks, nail polishes, eye and face make-up, shampoos, hair straighteners, hair colors, mouthwashes, and deodorants. Consumers expect their cosmetics – and the ingredients in cosmetics – to be safe.”

The President’s statement also references the growing cosmetics industry and says that “In the face of this growth, FDA has inadequate, incomplete, and often outdated data on cosmetic products and ingredients.”

Nudelman praised the administration’s statement. “Clearly the Obama administration and the FDA recognize the problem—that while the FDA has the responsibility to protect the public by ensuring cosmetics are safe and non-toxic, it doesn’t have the authority or the resources to do so,” she said. “The Safe Cosmetics Act will give the FDA the authority and resources it is asking for to address this critical public health and safety issue.”

Download the FDA budget request here.

Download the Campaign's letter to the Energy and Commerce Committee here.

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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