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Once upon a time, in a tropical land called Northern Virginia in July, I was a waitress.

Waiting tables came with its fair share of health effects: Aching feet, sunburned skin, and restless nights studded with telltale server nightmares about forgotten tables and fuming customers. Surprisingly, the most lasting damage didn’t come from sleepless nights or beat-up-feet. It came from my twice a day beauty rituals. 12 hours days, split between lunch and dinner, required a long shower and a liberal amount of humidity-battling hair products to transform me from a sweaty civilian into a smiling server.

Not everyone is working outside, not everyone is peddling quasi-French-entrees to the dinner rush, but apparently, most women have their own shockingly toxic beauty routines. Women use on average 12 personal care products a day, exposing them to over 125 unique chemicals daily. Only 11% of chemicals in personal care products in the U.S. have been assessed for safety by the industry’s self-policing panel. In fact, of the 12,000 ingredients used in personal care products, only 8 have been banned since our cosmetics legislation first passed in 1938.

The existing laws for cosmetics haven’t been updated for 70 years; it's time for a makeover. Ask your U.S. House members to co-sponsor the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011:

Late last week, Congressional leaders reintroduced the federal Safe Cosmetics Act in the House of Representatives. This bill (H.R.2359) would give the FDA the authority it needs to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful substances like lead, 1,4-dioxane and chemicals linked to cancer. The existing law, which has not been updated in 70 years, allows companies to use toxic chemicals in products we use on our bodies every day.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen arsenic in baby shampoo, neurotoxins in perfume, formaldehyde in Brazilian blowouts---even that urban legend about lead in lipstick turned out to be true. Even products that claim to be “Natural,” “Herbal,” or “Organic” can't be trusted, since there is no legal definition for any of these terms. "Companies say, 'We do a lot of testing.' But they're looking for short-term effects like a rash," said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. "They're not looking at long-term health effects like cancer risk."

Taking a shower, washing your kids' hair, applying sunscreen lotion: These every day moments shouldn’t be laced with toxic chemicals. We know the U.S. can do better when it comes to keeping our families safe. Urge your U.S. House members to co-sponsor the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011. Together, let’s protect our families by giving the cosmetics industry the makeover it deserves.



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