Not So Safe Cosmetics Law Brings About Revamp

You've heard the horror stories of formaldehyde in hair products and even baby shampoos. Now a new cosmetics law proposed by some members of Congress may change all of that. It may affect local businesses too, but in a good way.

Tucked away in a corner of a strip mall off Buffalo Speedway is One Green Street. It’s a store that sells only organic products. Owner Sherrie Eichberger floats around her store checking her stock and chatting to customers. She takes a moment out to rave about the updated version of the Safe Cosmetics Act 2011.

"Well it means a world of difference for men, women and children, even pets. People have a false sense of security now when they shop. They believe that there’s already such a bill in place."

Eichberger goes to great pains to make sure every single product she sells is not only American made but also free of any kind of harmful chemicals, toxins or additives. She feels it’s only fair that large cosmetics companies are held to the same standard. And that according to Stacey Malkan from the Safe Cosmetics Campaign is exactly what this new law will do.

"It would require companies to phase out chemicals that are linked to cancer and birth defects. It would require companies to fully disclose what’s in their products and it will set up a system of safety assessments under FDA for the chemicals and cosmetics."

A Safe Cosmetics Bill was penned last year. However small business owners like Eichberger felt that they couldn’t afford the fees and registrations required by the legislation. After reworking that part of the bill so only large companies were paying a fee Malkan feels they are in a much stronger position to see it passed.

"The current cosmetics regulations are from 1938, so I think there’s a lot of recognition among many parties that the laws need to be updated and that the FDA needs to be brought into the 21st century."

But not everyone likes the idea of these new regulations. Robert Tisserand is an aromatherapy expert with Personal Care Truth.com, a website that provides scientific information on what’s in personal care products. 

"It’s very, very all embracing sweeping legislation. I prefer what happens in Europe for cosmetic safety which is incremental legislation. They tend to pass a bill that governs one single substance at a time and that way there is adequate time to debate."

While Tisserand feels that those behind this new Safe Cosmetics Act are probably well intentioned. He says they’ve failed to consult with the right kind of knowledgeable people to make it work for everyone. Ultimately, he thinks the solution lies with the Food and Drug Administration.

"There are FDA laws about labeling and a lot of people flaunt those laws and nothing seems to happen about it. So I think the FDA does need more power to enforce its current regulations."

If the Act is passed in the next legislative session it will mean that cosmetic giants will be hit where it hurts, in their pockets. Forking out for tests for harmful chemicals and also in registration fees.

Sherrie Eichberger hopes this won’t be passed onto the consumer. But if it is, she feels that the knowledge that the products we use every day are safe is a price worth paying.

Bio photo of Edel Howlin

Edel Howlin

Producer, Houston Matters

Edel is a producer on Houston Matters and reporter for PBS’s Newshour Weekend...