A bill before the U.S. Senate would amend federal regulations to give the Food and Drug Administration more oversight and power over personal care products such as cosmetics and lotions, its sponsors say.
The nonprofit Environment Working Group says women apply an average of 12 products to their bodies daily, containing some 168 chemicals. Yet federal regulation of such products hasn't changed much since the 1930s, says bill sponsor Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
"From shampoo to lotion, the use of personal care products is widespread. However, there are very few protections in place to ensure their safety," she said in a statement.
As an example, she noted, the FDA cannot currently force cosmetic companies to recall a product nor can it require such companies to report any adverse health effects.
The Personal Care Products Safety Act, which Feinstein introduced with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the FDA would require companies to submit, within 15 days, any reports to them from consumers of "serious" health issues including disfigurement, hospitalizations or death. Companies also must report nonserious events, such as rashes, in annual reports.
The bill would also require the FDA to conduct reviews of chemicals widely used in personal care goods annually to evaluate their level of safety. It will be required to review 5 different chemicals for safety each year.
Feinstein and Collins have collaborated with the Environmental Working Group in formulating the bill. The nonprofit group has for the past 10 years maintained a Skin Deep database where consumers can find information on the chemical content of personal care preparations and whether included chemicals are considered to be health risks.
"These are basic tools that should have been granted to the FDA decades ago, but are only now being provided in the Feinstein-Collins bill," said Scott Faber, the Environmental Working Group's vice president of government affairs. "Cosmetics are sort of the last unregulated area of consumer products law. I can't overstate how little law is now on the books. The FDA virtually has no power to regulate the products we use every day."
Women aren't the only concern, the group says; men, although they use fewer individual products, still put an average of 85 chemicals on their bodies each and every day.
And teens are, predictably, heavy users of personal care products, employing an average of 17 products daily.
An industry trade group, the Personal Care Products Council, has expressed its support for the measure.
"While we believe our products are the safest category that FDA regulates, we also believe well-crafted, science-based reforms will enhance industry's ability to innovate and further strengthen consumer confidence in the products they trust and use every day," it said in a statement.
Photo: Holly Clark | Flickr