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Midgen bill would require cosmetic chemical disclosure
By: Bay City News Wire
April 1, 2005

A North Bay lawmaker is hoping to clean up the cosmetics industry in California by introducing legislation that would require special labeling and ban certain chemicals in cosmetics.

Senate Bill 484, authored by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, would require cosmetic manufacturers to report the use of harmful chemicals in their products to the state, according to Migden's office.

Currently, the safety of ingredients in cosmetics is regulated by the industry itself, said Lauren Sucher, spokeswoman for Environmental Working Group. The group found in a recent study, however, that 89 percent of ingredients in cosmetics have not been tested for safety.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that any product with ingredients not tested for safety be labeled accordingly. But until recently, said Sucher, this requirement has not been enforced.

What is ironic, said Sucher, is that while the FDA requires that ingredients of a product be safe, the agency does not define what safe is, leaving it open to the interpretation of individual companies, or the industry-funded regulatory board, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel. Moreover, if an ingredient is found unsafe, neither the FDA nor the regulatory board has the authority to keep that ingredient out of products, said Sucher.

Kevin Donegan, spokesman for the Breast Cancer Foundation, said that Migden's bill is a good starting point for regulating cosmetics.

"It would add an extra layer of accountability for cosmetics products,'' said Donagen.

Donagen said that Migden's bill would require companies to notify the state of potentially dangerous chemicals in their products, and the state would then maintain a list of these chemicals.

Rather than relying on an industry-funded panel to decide the safety of chemicals, the bill would look to "authoritative scientific bodies'' to determine the dangers of chemicals, said Nick Guroff of National Environmental Trust.

With this bill, the state would be able to force disclosure on a "largely unregulated industry,'' to allow consumers to make informed choices, said Guroff.

In a statement about the safety of cosmetics, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association reported that "The American cosmetics industry works closely with the FDA to ensure the safety of all cosmetics sold in the United State,'' and further said that the FDA has had "comparatively little need to use its authority because cosmetics are composed of safe ingredients, and because, when necessary, the cosmetics industry has acted voluntarily to prevent safety problems.''

One instance in which the industry appears to have faltered is in classifying chemicals called phthalates safe, according to Donegan. In Europe, two types of phthalates, DBP and DEHP have been banned because of recent studies that found them to cause asthma, birth defects and cancer, he said.

The CIR reviewed its 1985 determination that the chemicals were safe in 2003 and affirmed its original finding, stating that the amounts consumers were exposed to did not pose a threat.

A separate bill sponsored by Sen. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, would follow Europe in banning the two phthalates.

As part of the campaign for safe cosmetics, Donagen said that cosmetic companies are being asked to voluntarily comply with the European regulations as well as inventory dangerous chemicals with the hope of eventually eliminating them. He said that nearly 100 companies have agreed to the compact so far.

Donagen said that the two bills before the legislature are a great first step at putting pressure on the industry, and hopefully bring about change nationally.

"California has been and can be a leader on health and safety laws,'' he said.           

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