Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Industry Influence Dominates Historic Hearing on Toxic Cosmetics

Industry Influence Dominates Historic Hearing on Toxic Cosmetics

Women's Voices for the Earth

In response to public pressure from recent scandals including mercury in face cream, lead in lipstick and formaldehyde in hair products, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on March 27 convened  the first Congressional hearing in 30 years on the safety of cosmetics and personal care products. The hearing was weighted in favor of industry, which represented four of the six witnesses who testified. No witnesses representing health impacted salon workers or consumers were called to testify.

“It’s upsetting that manufacturers, their trade groups and lawyers got most of the seats at the table but the voices of people who have been hurt by toxic products were shut out of the process,” said Jennifer Arce, a hairstylist who is suffering respiratory ailments due to formaldehyde exposure from hair straightening treatments that she was required to give clients. Arce’s name was submitted to the Committee but she was not chosen to testify.

“Despite the heavy industry influence, safe cosmetics champions Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) gave voice to the strong science supporting concerns about toxic chemicals in cosmetics and were staunch advocates for public health, worker safety and consumers’ right to know,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Michael DiBartolomeis, PhD toxicologist and head of the Safe Cosmetics Program for the California Department of Health, testified that companies have reported to his office 17,060 personal care products that contain one or more of 96 carcinogens or reproductive toxicants. The reporting is required by the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005.

DiBartolomeis stressed the importance that any federal cosmetics legislation must not preempt states’ rights to create stronger standards, as California has done. This could be a central issue as Congress gears up to debate cosmetics safety in the weeks ahead.

“This is a critical time for the future of cosmetic safety in the United States. Industry, environmental groups and both parties seem to agree that the failed 1938 cosmetics laws need to be updated, but the million-dollar question is, will it be meaningful reform or will industry write its own rules and make a bad situation worse?” said Janet Nudelman, policy director of the Breast Cancer Fund.

Three legislative proposals are circulating. The original cosmetics safety bill—the Safe Cosmetics Act, introduced last year by Schakowsky, Markey and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)—is being supported by more than 100 consumer, public health, medical, faith and environmental groups.

On March 27, Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Dingle (D-MI) introduced the Cosmetics Safety Enhancement Act. That bill calls for companies to pay $500 in user fees and would grant recall authority to FDA for cosmetics. Unlike Schakowsky’s bill, it would not provide protections against carcinogens and reproductive toxins in cosmetics, would not require full disclosure of cosmetic ingredients, and does not contain as strong a safety standard.

A third legislative proposal, written by the Personal Care Products Council, seeks to have FDA codify into law decisions about ingredient safety made by the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel. Such a move would be “unprecedented” and possibly unconstitutional, according to Michael Landa, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who testified at the hearing.

The Energy and Commerce Committee has said there is a placeholder for cosmetics safety language to be added by Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) to the User Fee Reauthorization Act that Congress will vote on in the coming months.

“Essential public health protections could be set back another 70 years if industry gets away with writing its own laws that put industry profits over public health,” said Janet Nudelman from the Breast Cancer Fund.

Nudelman stressed the need for meaningful reform that includes phasing out cosmetic ingredients linked to cancer, reproductive or developmental toxicity; a safety standard that protects workers, babies and other vulnerable populations; full disclosure of ingredients and FDA authority to recall dangerous products from the market—all of which are elements of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011.

“Anything less than this will fail to protect the public from the worst toxic chemicals that are lurking in our most intimate products,” Nudelman said.

For more information, click here.

With restaurants and supermarkets becoming less viable options during the pandemic, there has been a growth in demand and supply of local food. Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County / Flickr

By Robin Scher

Beyond the questions surrounding the availability, effectiveness and safety of a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to question where our food is coming from and whether we will have enough.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tearing through the crowded streets of Philadelphia, an electric car and a gas-powered car sought to win a heated race. One that mimicked how cars are actually used. The cars had to stop at stoplights, wait for pedestrians to cross the street, and swerve in and out of the hundreds of horse-drawn buggies. That's right, horse-drawn buggies. Because this race took place in 1908. It wanted to settle once and for all which car was the superior urban vehicle. Although the gas-powered car was more powerful, the electric car was more versatile. As the cars passed over the finish line, the defeat was stunning. The 1908 Studebaker electric car won by 10 minutes. If in 1908, the electric car was clearly the better form of transportation, why don't we drive them now? Today, I'm going to answer that question by diving into the history of electric cars and what I discovered may surprise you.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A technician inspects a bitcoin mining operation at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec on March 19, 2018. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

As bitcoin's fortunes and prominence rise, so do concerns about its environmental impact.

Read More Show Less
OR-93 traveled hundreds of miles from Oregon to California. Austin Smith Jr. / Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs / California Department of Fish and Wildlife

An Oregon-born wolf named OR-93 has sparked conservation hopes with a historic journey into California.

Read More Show Less
A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. The plant, owned by FirstEnergy, was retired the following month. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

By David Drake and Jeffrey York

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The Big Idea

People often point to plunging natural gas prices as the reason U.S. coal-fired power plants have been shutting down at a faster pace in recent years. However, new research shows two other forces had a much larger effect: federal regulation and a well-funded activist campaign that launched in 2011 with the goal of ending coal power.

Read More Show Less