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Senators Call on FDA to Review Safety of Cosmetics Ingredients

Two U.S. Senators have introduced new legislation that would give the FDA increased regulatory authority over the ingredients found in personal care products, such as cosmetics and shampoo. 

The bipartisan legislation was introduced this week by Senators Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, and Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine.

Known as the Personal Care Products Safety Act, the bill would give the FDA the authority and duty to review five ingredients of concern in personal care products each year. It would also allow the agency to ban or restrict those ingredients if it deems necessary.

“From shampoo to lotion, the use of personal care products is widespread, however, there are very few protections in place to ensure their safety,” Senator Feinstein said in am April 20 press release. “I am pleased to be introducing this legislation with Senator Collins that will require FDA to review chemicals used in these products and provide clear guidance on their safety. In addition, the legislation has broad support from companies and consumer groups alike.”

The first five chemicals proposed for review include methylene glycol, diazolidinyl urea, and quaternium-15, all of which have been linked to the release of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. The agency would also review propyl paraben, a preservative believed to be an endocrine disruptor lead acetate, a neurotoxin used in men’s hair dyes.

Concerns about methylene glycol were at the center of fears over the health risks of Brazilian Blowouts, popular hair straightening products.

After receiving numerous complaints regarding the serious adverse effects as a result of the Brazilian Blowout products Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) and Oregon Health and Science University conducted testing, which revealed extremely high levels of formaldehyde in the products.

Following the complaints and OSHA alert, congress members sent a letter to the FDA in May 2011, urging quick action and a voluntary recall of the products. They called for the institution of accurate labeling of the products and a review of the formaldehyde chemical to determine if it should be banned due to health risks.

Quaternium-15 was previously used in some Johnson & Johnson products, including baby shampoo, until the company agreed to remove it in 2013 following a petition and boycott threat by the consumer watchdog group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Senator Feinstein lists Johnson & Johnson as one of the companies supporting the new legislation. Other companies that have signed on include Procter & Gamble, Revlon, Estee Lauder, and L’Oreal.

The bill also has support of a number of consumer groups, including the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

“Many Americans are surprised to learn that the ingredients in their makeup, shampoo and body lotion are largely unregulated and, in some cases, harmful to their health,” Heather White, EWG Executive Director, said in a press release supporting the legislation. “The fact is that companies can put potentially dangerous ingredients into the products they sell without ever having to prove they are safe. We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Feinstein and Collins on trying to improve the safety of the products that families use every day.”

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