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What If: Congress enacted a law to eliminate toxins from cosmetics and personal care?

By Pam Lambert, NovAurora Naturals

 H.R.5786 -- Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (Introduced in House)

July 20, 2010 Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, (HR 5786), which gives the Food and Drug Administration authority to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful ingredients. Existing law, passed in 1938, granted decision-making about ingredient safety to the cosmetics industry. (There’s also another bill in Congress now, H.R. 5820, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010, which addresses toxic chemicals, but excludes cosmetics and personal care products.)

“Harmful chemicals have no place in the products we put on our bodies or on our children’s bodies,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “Our cosmetics laws are woefully out of date—manufacturers aren’t even required to disclose all their ingredients on labels, leaving Americans unknowingly exposed to harmful mystery ingredients. This bill will finally protect those consumers.”


What's in the Legislation?

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, provisions of the legislation will (from SafeCosmetics.org) :

  • "Phase out ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm;
  • Create a health-based safety standard that includes protections for children, the elderly, workers and other vulnerable populations;
  • Close labeling loopholes by requiring full ingredient disclosure on product labels and company web sites, including the constituent ingredients of   fragrance and salon products;
  • Give workers access to information about unsafe chemicals in personal care products;
  • Require data-sharing to avoid duplicative testing and encourage the development of alternatives to animal testing;
  • Provide adequate funding to the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors so it has the resources it needs to provide effective oversight of the cosmetics industry; and
  • Level the playing field so small businesses can compete fairly."  

How would passage of this bill change our lives?

In a perfect world, we would wave a magic wand and wake up the next day with clean air, soil and water, and everything we put in or on our bodies would be healthy and nourishing for everyone in the land.  Of course, that will not happen. It will take many years to see the results of the bill, if it passes, and it remains to be seen how new ingredients will be analyzed. Often it takes generations to see the long term effects of toxins. Exposure to environmental toxins (in water, air, etc.) will not end overnight; at best, we can expect the rate of degradation to slow. All the same, passage of these bills would be a vitally important first step.       

Would enactment of H.R. 5786 blur the distinctions between standard and natural/organic skin care, or lessen the popularity of or need for natural/organic products?

 Do you choose natural/organic products just to avoid toxins?

Personally, I make the choices for my family and for NovAurora on many factors other than toxicity, including:

  1. Organic farming is beneficial to the environment and is more sustainable;
  2. Organic farming produces tastier, healthier, more nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, herbs, etc.
  3. Organic farming doesn’t pollute the groundwaters or streams, and is thus healthier for aquatic wildlife, including the fish we eat;  
  4. Organic ingredients are non-GMO. GMOs will likely not be listed among the unsafe, disallowed toxins in either bill, but the verdict is still out as to the effects of GMOs on future generations of plants, animals, and people;
  5. Natural/organic products emphasize tried-and-true botanical ingredients with long (from a few generations to millennia) histories of safety and efficacy; examples are aloe, jojoba and shea butter;  (Read about NovAurora's pristine ingredients.)
  6. Like more and more consumers, I seek out products that are unscented, gluten-free, vegan, petroleum-free, and hypo-allergenic. The incidence of allergies, asthma, celiac disease, MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity), endocrine disruption, and declining reproductive health continues to mount. These disorders are linked to various kinds of toxic exposure; we are unlikely to see a turnaround in our lifetime. It’s improbable that standard personal care products will generally include these options.


In the seventy-two years since the last safe cosmetics legislature was enacted, much harm has been done. The proposed Bill will not repair the damage, but its passage is an imperative first step in reversing the trend. Natural and organic cosmetics and personal care products will continue to distinguish themselves from mainstream, standard products by their choice of ingredients with long histories of safety and efficacy, emphasis on sustainability, and service to discriminating consumers with special needs or higher standards. 

Note to readers: What are your “What if?” questions you’d like to see addressed? Send us your thoughts.

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