Take a look in your bathroom. How many bottles are in there? You probably have the basics — shampoo, conditioner and soap — as well as some extras such as shaving cream, hair gel, perfume and lotion. What about cosmetics? How many products do you use on a daily basis? And more importantly, what do you know about the ingredients used to make those products that you slather on your skin?
According to the Environmental Working Group, the average American woman puts as many as 168 chemicals on her body each day in the form of personal care products and cosmetics. American men have slightly less chemical exposure, and they still use an average of 85 chemicals in their toiletry products each day.
Yet federal guidelines regulating the safety of these chemicals haven't been updated in decades. That's why two U.S. senators — Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — recently introduced a new bill that would amend the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938 to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the regulatory muscle to get better control over the safety of the products that men and women use on their bodies each day.
The 98-page bill is called the Personal Care Products Safety Act and it contains provisions that require personal care companies to register with the FDA and provide information about their products and the ingredients used to make them. The new bill would require the FDA to review five chemicals that frequently appear in personal care products each year to evaluate their safety. According to Feinstein's office, the first set of chemicals to be evaluated would likely be diazolidinyl urea, lead acetate, methylene glycol/formaldehyde, propyl paraben, and quaternium-15.
The Personal Care Products Safety Act would also require companies to submit to the FDA any information about serious health effects that heave been reported by consumers. The time frame would be 15 days. Under the current law, companies are not required to report such information, and the FDA has no authority to request it.
Feinstein and Collins collaborated with the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit consumer health advocacy group, in writing the new bill. The Environmental Working Group created the Skin Deep database about 10 years ago to give consumers information about the safety of ingredients used in personal care products. Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group's vice president of government affairs, commented on the need for such a bill: "Cosmetics are sort of the last unregulated area of consumer products law. I can't overstate how little law is now on the books. The FDA virtually has no power to regulate the products we use everyday."
This isn't the first time that Congress has introduced a bill that would update the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. But it's the first time that industry leaders, including Johnson & Johnson, Revlon and the Personal Care Products Council, an industry trade group, have voiced their support for such a bill.
If you like a good legislative read, check out the full text of the proposed bill on Sen. Feinstein's website.
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- 5 common chemicals found in cosmetics