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Newly introduced Safe Cosmetics Act (HR 2359) addresses the hidden toxic chemicals in your hair products, your tween’s highly fragranced lotion, and your baby’s bubble bath

By now you’ve probably heard of Brazilian Blowout, the popular hair straightening procedure that has come under fire in the past year for having formaldehyde in the “formaldehyde free” version of the product. That’s right- not only was this carcinogen found in the product at high levels (12% in one product, within the range used in embalming fluid)- it was in a product that claimed not to have it in there at all.

Maybe you wondered if this is one of those examples of a toxic product with deceitful marketing that sneaks its way onto the American market, and that a government agency like FDA later recalls…?


Brazilian Blowout is made by a California company that stands by the safety of its products despite the high formaldehyde concentrations and health complaints from salon workers and clients. Other countries and some US states are taking action to remove Brazilian Blowout from store shelves, but the US FDA hasn’t moved an inch. The company’s use of a carcinogen in a hair product might be egregious, but it isn’t illegal in the US, and isn’t even rare. See, Brazilian Blowout is just the tip of the iceberg: Many cosmetics, even iconic baby brands Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Sesame Street Bubble Bath, contain carcinogens like formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane, or other toxic chemicals that often aren’t listed on ingredient labels.

Formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals and heavy metals can be considered “contaminants” (i.e. not intentional ingredients) and therefore do not need to be listed on cosmetic ingredient labels.  Many companies also hide ingredients under the label of "fragrance.” Last year the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned an independent lab to test 17 popular fragrance products. We found hidden fragrance chemicals, including hormone disrupters linked to a range of health effects including sperm damage, thyroid disruption and cancer.  Companies using “fragrance” in lotions and shampoos are using the same tactics to hide ingredients- not from other companies, who can reverse engineer the product in a lab in no time, but from consumers like you and me.

While there are many companies making and selling safe cosmetics – with ingredients fully disclosed- and there are tips for consumers looking to purchase safe products, we cannot just shop our way out of this problem. We need the $50 billion cosmetics industry to be regulated in order to keep us safe and to keep the US competitive in a global market.

Fortunately, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) or Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) just introduced The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 (H.R.2359) to ensure that we know what’s in the products we buy, put on our bodies and our kids, and that we wash down the drain and into our waterways. And even more importantly, the bill will eliminate harmful chemicals like formaldehyde from the products we put on our bodies in the first place.

We need all hands on deck! Please tell your Representative that safe cosmetics are important to you and ask him or her to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Safe Cosmetics Act. Or, if you're represented by one of the send them your thanks!

And please tell them that safe cosmetics is not a partisan issue. It is an issue that affects us all: everyone uses personal care products, and every one of us is in some way affected by cancer, infertility, learning disabilities and/or other serious health impacts linked to chemicals in our environment and in our everyday products like cosmetics. So let’s make cosmetics safe for all of us!  We can do this, and we need to do it now, before any other families are unnecessarily exposed to toxic chemicals in products that should be benign.

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