Whether you follow the precautionary principle or not when it comes to untested chemicals in beauty products, it’s common knowledge that there is little to no regulation when it comes to the safety of the ingredients companies use to make personal-care products—from lipstick and hair dye to moisturizer and deodorant.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins want to change that, with a bipartisan bill that would require the FDA to test some chemicals and give them a tiny bit more power in requiring companies to report safety concerns.
“While no legislation is perfect, this bill will give the FDA new tools to protect consumers from dangerous cosmetics,” Environmental Working Group executive director Heather White said in a press release. “It is long overdue.”
What are those tools? Currently, companies are not required to disclose health issues with products reported by consumers, and the FDA can only ask them to voluntarily recall products when there are concerns. The new law would require companies to report what it calls “serious” health effects within 15 business days and “nonserious” effects annually.
The FDA would also begin reviewing five chemicals with potential health concerns each year, starting with propylparaben, lead acetate, methylene glycol (the form of formaldehyde famous for its role in Brazilian blowouts), and diazolidinyl urea and quaternium-15, both formaldehyde-releasing preservatives used in skin- and hair-care products.
This is all good news, but it’s also a little bit troubling that a bill needs to be proposed in order for the FDA to even potentially look into a chemical that was classified as known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer more than 10 years ago.
And disclosing immediate “health issues” like hospitalizations and rashes will never shed light on the potential long-term health issues many scientists worry about, like cancer risk associated with parabens. But, hey, it’s a start? —Lisa Elaine Held
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