As a leading national organization educating women about breast cancer prevention, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) recently created The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, sponsoring a comprehensive package of federal bills to ensure greater safety in the use of various care products. Through this campaign, the organization is committed to getting rid of toxic chemicals from beauty and personal care products, reducing unsafe chemical exposures for the most vulnerable and making ingredient transparency the new industry standard. Specifically, the federal Safer Beauty Bill Package includes four bills that were submitted to Congress on October 8, 2021.
According to Action Network, here are the key takeaways from each Bill:
- HR 5537: Toxic Free Beauty Act of 2021. This bill will ban 11 of the most toxic chemicals found in care products, including mercury, formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates, phenylenediamines (hair dye chemicals), and the entire class of PFAS “forever” chemicals. All of these chemicals are already banned in California, Maryland, and the EU. NGO bill lead: BCPP, WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Women’s Voices for the Earth. Authors Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX).
- HR 5538: Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2021. This bill will require the disclosure of the secret, unlabeled and often toxic fragrance and flavor chemicals in personal care products that are present on 21 state, federal, and international lists of toxic chemicals (created by respected authoritative governmental and scientific bodies, plus a list of EU fragrance allergens). NGO bill leads: BCPP, Women’s Voices for the Earth and WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Authors Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL) & Rep. Matsui (D-CA).
- HR 5540: Cosmetic Safety for Communities of Color and Professional Salon Workers Act of 2021. This bill will create cosmetic safety protections for women of color and professional hair, nail, and beauty salon workers: two vulnerable populations who are most at risk of unsafe exposures because of the toxic chemicals in the products marketed to them or commonly found in their workplaces. NGO bill leads: BCPP, California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Author Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) & Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE).
- HR 5539: Cosmetic Supply Chain Transparency Act of 2021. This bill will require upstream suppliers to provide ingredient disclosure and safety data to cosmetic companies so that they can get the information they need to make safer products. NGO bill leads: BCPP, American Sustainable Business Council and Clean Production Action. Author Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL).
While some may misunderstand the impact of using toxic chemicals in various care products, here are some shocking statistics that reveal why these bills are paramount:
- Since 2009, 595 cosmetics manufacturers have reported using 88 chemicals, in more than 73,000 products that have been linked to cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.
- A new study that found high levels of a marker for toxic PFAS substances in 52% of 231 makeup products purchased in the United States and Canada and that 88% of the tested products failed to disclose on their labels any ingredients that would explain those chemical markers.
- No federal law currently requires the disclosure of ingredients or any other kind of transparency between entities in the cosmetic industry supply chain.
- A recent NIEHS study found higher rates of breast cancer associated with the use of hair straighteners and permanent hair dye among black women: African American women who regularly dye their hair face a 60% increased risk of breast cancer compared to an 8% increased risk for white women.
- Studies show that hairdressers have triple the risk of developing breast cancer and are more likely to develop leukemia and multiple myeloma.
- People working at hair salons are at high risk of exposure to chemicals in cosmetics because of poor indoor air quality, which makes them susceptible to damage to the immune, reproductive, neurological and respiratory systems as well as hair loss, bruising and eczema like reaction on the scalp, lung inflammation, asthma, severe allergic reactions, and death.
- The main health risks at nail salons are associated with ultraviolet (UV) light, hazardous chemicals such as toluene and acetone, and cancer-causing compounds such as formaldehyde and butyl acetate. Inadequate access to information, lax regulatory standards and enforcement, and a large immigrant workforce with cultural and language obstacles furthers this risk.
To support the Safer Beauty Bill Package please visit https://www.bcpp.org/take-action/support-the-safer-beauty-bill-package/
Additional Resources for Consumers:
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has an online Skin Deep Guide which consumers can use to search thousands of makeup products to see what chemicals they contain.
Clearya is a free mobile app and browser plug-in that automatically scans cosmetics ingredients as you shop online. At checkout, the user is notified of any unsafe ingredients, such as PFAS, in their cart.
Think Dirty app is an independent source that allows you to compare products as you shop. Just scan the product barcode and Think Dirty will give you easy-to-understand info on the product, track dirty ingredients and shop for cleaner options.
As we move forward, please stay informed of the progress on these bills. It is scary to know that many of the cosmetic products one uses daily have toxic ingredients that are not regulated or even disclosed. So, it is essential that we as feminists support this federal bill package to protect the health and safety for ourselves and our loved ones. Thank you to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners for your hard work to ensure breast cancer prevention and a safer future for all.
Lila Mendelsohn, President’s Office Intern