Dear EarthTalk: Can you explain the 2010 Safe Cosmetics Act? What does it purport to do and has it been signed into law?

Author:Scheer, Roddy
 
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Dear EarthTalk: Can you explain the 2010 Safe Cosmetics Act? What does it purport to do and has it been signed into law?--Megan Wilson, Austin, TX

The Safe Cosmetics Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2010 by Democrats Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. But it never got past committee reviews and thus never came up for a vote.

The proposed bill aimed to ensure that all personal care products for sale in the U.S. would be free of harmful ingredients and that all ingredients would be fully disclosed. The bill would've given the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to prohibit the use of certain ingredients, including carcinogens and reproductive and developmental toxins, to recall products that fail to meet safety standards, and to require product labels to name each ingredient.

The FDA has only limited say in what cosmetics manufacturers can and cannot put into their products. And the cosmetics industry has essentially been regulating itself for some three decades, and would like to keep it that way. In response to failed efforts in the 1970s to force the FDA to regulate cosmetics more like drugs-with required pre-market safety assessments--the industry decided to take matters into its own hands, creating the Cosmetics Industry Review Panel to judge the safety of various ingredients.

Critics argue that self-regulation isn't appropriate for an industry trading in potentially carcinogenic products. "It's a panel funded by the trade association," Stacy Malkan of the non-profit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics told the Washington, DC-based Corporate Crime Reporter. "For 30 years that they have been in operation, they have only looked at about 13 percent of the chemicals in cosmetics. They do cursory reviews. They look mostly for short term health effects. It's a panel of mostly dermatologists, not toxicologists. So, they don't have the expertise...

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