If you have been following this site you have probably realized and become very familiar with the following statement regarding cosmetics law in the United States: “Legislatively, there is limited protection for consumers against potentially dangerous chemicals, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms in cosmetics, personal care products, and food.” If you are viewing Nature’s Pulchritude for the first time, that statement is a partial introduction to why this site exists. The unfortunate reality is that most consumers are ill-informed or apathetic about what is in their cosmetics, personal care products, and food, and on top of that there is limited legislative protection for any consumer (knowledgeable or otherwise) to avoid harmful chemicals and toxins outside of purchasing certified organic. This past week two articles were published and reposted on this site that clearly highlight the legislative issues with cosmetics. The fact of the matter is that there is a legislative impasse–companies are essentially doing whatever they please (a free for all) because existing laws allow them to, whether through loopholes or inadequate permissions to regulate by the appropriate agency. Despite the attempts at getting Federal or state legislation passed, progress seems to be moot.
The current state of affairs is unacceptable and needs to change. The first article linked the presence of certain chemicals (lead, methylmercury, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenols (PCBS), and toluene) in cosmetics and household products to developmental issues in fetuses and young children. It should be pointed out that the chemicals listed are scientifically very well known to be toxic, however, for reasons unbeknownst to many informed people these chemicals are still in various household and personal care products in the United States. Why? The European Union, Japan, and other nations have banned the used of these chemicals in products or have given concentration restrictions. Why has this not happened in the United States? Well, steps have been taken in the United States, albeit unsuccessful or struggling.
The second article discussed how the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005 in California has struggled due to lack of funding and cooperation from corporate entities. This situation further illustrates the legislative problems that enable a corporate free for all. Companies do not have to fully comply with California State Law, which requires that ingredients be disclosed prior to being sold in the state, because there is a loophole that allows them to claim “trade secret” without further proof or justification. Loopholes in legislation are not new, however, when it drastically impedes the ability of a law to fulfill its purpose it almost defeats the purpose. California was also one of the first states to propose a bill to require GMOs be labeled in all products, however, voters did not pass it during the 2012 elections. The legislative world can be difficult to navigate and goes much deeper than people voting. While the aforementioned legislations and the stalled Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 (Federal law) are steps in the right direction, more must be done.
Many people strongly underestimate the power they wield as consumers. They are not called “consumer products” solely because it is catchy, but because they are dependent on you, the consumer. Companies spend millions of dollars annually convincing you to buy their product (marketing), and with social media and the internet are devising more innovate means to reach the consumer. If a significant portion of consumers decide they do not want harmful chemicals in their personal care products or pesticides and GMOs in their food and stop purchasing these products to the extent that it impacts these companies financially, changes will occur. Until that happens the legislative impasse and corporate free for all are likely to continue.
What do you think should happen to implement effect Cosmetics law in the United States?