For the first time in nearly 80 years, the U.S. House of Representatives is (finally) looking at making cosmetics safer. Last Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Energy and Commerce met and held a hearing entitled “Building Consumer Confidence by Empowering FDA to Improve Cosmetic Safety.” The hearing focused on the introduction of two bills, the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2019 and the Cosmetic Safety Enhancement Act of 2019, intended to to help protect users of common, every-day beauty products.
I have written extensively on this blog about how the products that we, and our children, use day after day, decade after decade, on our eyelids, cheeks, lips, scalps, underarms, and sexual organs have major consequences for our health. Most ordinary household products that we use every day all contain a myriad of toxic ingredients, including terribly harmful contaminants like asbestos and xenoestrogens to ovarian cancer, breast cancer, endometriosis, fibroids, early onset of puberty, miscarriage, poor maternal and infant health outcomes, diabetes, obesity, and more. With few exceptions, current federal law does not require cosmetics or other personal care products sold in the United States to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being shipped to market. Manufacturers are not required to list all of their ingredients, test their products, use good manufacturing practices to prevent contamination, or even recall products that they know are dangerous. Meanwhile, millions of us have been slowly poisoned by these toxins, day after day, for more than a century as a result of the industries’ self-regulation.
According to the Environmental Working Group, on average, women use 12 products a day containing a total of 168 unique ingredients, while men use six products daily with 85 unique ingredients. Almost none of these products are tested for safety. It is high past time for our government to put an end to free for all the cosmetic industry has enjoyed, and obscenely profited from, for the past 100 years and introduction of these House bills is an important first step. Sadly, however, given its recent track record of stonewalling over 400 House bills designed to help the American people, it is hard to muster any optimism that our U.S. Senate will act to protect the safety of the American consumer here. But hopefully, at a minimum, introduction of these bills will help to put a much-needed spotlight on a very serious hazard to the health and well-being of all of us. In the meantime, you don’t need to wait on Congress to start protecting yourself now. If you’re looking to minimize your exposure to these potentially lethal contaminants, I encourage you to vote with your dollar by buying products and supporting companies that eschew inclusion of known human toxins. For those of us residing locally, the newly opened Wheeling Public Market offers a number of good options. And if you believe that you have been harmed by exposure to cosmetics or other household hygiene products, you should contact an experienced attorney right away to investigate your rights.