Cosmetics could get ingredient makeover

From shampoo to makeup and skin lotion, we use a host of cosmetics.

In recent years, consumer activists have questioned what's in them, and whether those ingredients are safe.

Two U-S Senators say it's time to find out.

They have introduced legislation that would require the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate and report on some of the ingredients used in cosmetics and personal-care products such as shampoo and skin cream.

The bill would require the FDA to investigate at least five ingredients each year.

The reviews on those ingredients would lead to the agency providing guidance about whether ingredients should continue to be used, and if so, at what concentration levels.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the bill's sponsors, said that federal regulations of the ingredients in cosmetics and personal-care products haven't been updated for 75 years.

"From shampoo to lotion, the use of personal care products is widespread, however, there are very few protections in place to ensure their safety," Feinstein said in a news release.

Most bills introduced don't make it into law.

But Feinstein and Collins have support from a wide array of consumer groups and companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Revlon and Proctor & Gamble. A trade association representing more than 600 companies is also supporting the bill.

The Environmental Working Group said that the current regulatory system allows companies to put potentially dangerous chemicals in personal-care products without having to prove they are safe.

The group, which maintains a database of 68,000 products to help consumers, said the bill was "a long-needed bipartisan framework for ensuring that cosmetics ingredients are safe."

Right now, the only pre-sale testing of cosmetics ingredients is done by the industry, and the FDA has little legal power to monitor or regulate manufacturers.

The bill also stipulates the first five chemicals the FDA would be required to review, including a form of formaldehyde used in hair-smoothing treatments and a chemical that mimics estrogen.

Coal tar chemicals used in hair dyes, which are currently exempt from regulation, despite linked to health concerns, could also be investigated and regulated by the FDA.

Under the legislation, the FDA would have the authority to order mandatory recalls of unsafe products as well as the power to require warning labels.

Companies would also be required to provide contact information to consumers and to report any serious adverse events to the FDA within 15 days of receiving a report.

The bill would create other new tools, such as allowing consumers to learn the identity of cosmetics ingredients, including those in fragrances.

Companies would be required to list on their web sites the same information that is now included on product packaging.

The FDA's investigation of the chemicals would be paid for through a user fee for similar to what is paid by manufacturers of medications and medical devices.

The Senators believe it would generate $20 million a year to finance the reviews.




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