The United States has lagged behind the rest of the world in regulating the contaminants and ingredients in personal care products. More than 80 other countries have taken action to protect their citizens from chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm.
Late last year, Congress passed the first update since 1938 to the federal law regulating personal care products, with key cosmetics reform provisions included in end-of-year spending legislation.
“Although more is needed to ensure the safety of chemicals used in cosmetics, this update is a welcome step in the right direction,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs for the Environmental Working Group.
In every Congress since 2015, a bill has been introduced that it would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the ability to protect the public from harm from cosmetics they use daily. However, the cosmetics industry has thwarted its passage.
Now, the FDA will now have many of the same basic tools for cosmetics that it already has for oversight of other products.
The new law will require companies to prove the safety of their cosmetics and finally allow the FDA to review related records when the health of consumers may be at risk.
Companies will also be required to test personal care products made with talc for asbestos, using state-of-the-art methods.
The FDA will receive other basic oversight powers for cosmetics, including to order recalls, that it has for other products.
In addition, cosmetics companies will be required to register with the FDA, report products and ingredients, adopt good manufacturing practices, and report serious adverse events caused by using products.
“Consumers, not just the FDA, will have more information when purchasing cosmetics, since fragrance allergens will now be on product labels,” said Faber.
The personal care product provisions will allow the FDA to review safety records for chemicals of concern, but the review isn’t required. Congress failed to provide the FDA with the resources needed for that work in the new law, he said.
Also, the cosmetics provisions won’t require the FDA to review and, if needed, ban or restrict chemicals, as earlier bills proposed.
The work of banning or restricting chemicals will need to be done by the states.
So, once again, consumers and consumer groups can celebrate some success, but the work needs to continue.