On April 18, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) introduced H.R. 4395, the Cosmetic Safety Amendments Act of 2012, which would allow federal oversight on cosmetics and personal care products prior to their public distribution.
The bill was even supported the very next day by the Personal Care Products Council, a long-standing association of manufacturers who would be directly affected by the Act.
Just four weeks later, however, Rep. Tim Scott quietly introduced 28 bills that could limit the applicability of H.R. 4395 after it passes.
The bills filed by Scott on May 15 would suspend the duties on particular imported chemicals that are commonly used in cosmetic products.
Being duty-free, the chemicals could be purchased at lower rates. Because most laws restricting ingredients in consumer products aren’t applied to materials already in stock, companies could be allowed to continue use of those chemicals until inventory is depleted.
Scott’s bills, then, could allow companies to stock up on these chemicals before any new law goes into effect, and thus substantially delay the intended purposes of Lance’s bill. Worse, these bills – all 28 introduced at the same time – could extend hazards to the public.
The chemicals specified in Scott’s bills are known to pose various dangers to humans, and many are restricted or even banned in Europe, Canada and/or parts of Asia.
Scott’s H.R. 5760, for example, wants to suspend temporarily the duty on Imidazolidinyl urea, a preservative derived from animal urine that’s used in cosmetics, shampoos and deodorants.
Known to be a toxicant to the human immune system and to the skin, the chemical also releases formaldehyde.
Its use in personal care products is very restricted in Europe and Japan, but it remains unwatched in the U.S. until the Cosmetic Safety Amendments Act goes into effect.
H.R. 5771 is “to suspend temporarily on modified phenolic resin in alkaline solution,” an additive used in sunscreen and hair colorings.
This chemical is already classed as a respiratory toxicant, according to Environmental Working Group, and is associated with cancer and damage to the nervous system.
Japan restricts its use in cosmetics to small amounts, and phenol is outright banned as a cosmetic ingredient in Canada.
While the Personal Care Products Council has publicly supported the Cosmetic Safety Amendments Act, it declined comment on these bills later introduced.
John Hurson, the Council’s executive vice president of government affairs, said he was not familiar with Scott’s bills, and could only say that the chemicals specified could also be used in non-cosmetic products.
In 2005, the Council reportedly spent $600,000 campaigning against a similar but more restrictive cosmetic safety act in California.
If the bills were to pass, not only could they extend the dangers that the cosmetic industry itself now acknowledges, but they could also continue the pattern of trade imbalance.
For example, only 10 U.S. companies manufacture or distribute Imidazolidinyl urea, the chemical specified in Scott’s H.R. 5760. Of 150 producers worldwide, 136 are in China.
Twenty-one American companies produce the benotriazol specified in Scott’s H.R. 5752, but 677 Chinese companies make this chemical, which is used as a UV-stabilizer in cosmetics despite its known status as toxic to the organ system.
To remove the duties on these chemicals imported from other countries, then, could harm sales of the few U.S. companies that make them. It could also further extend the trade deficit with China.
Two of the 28 bills Scott filed that same day pertained to chemicals used in agricultural herbicides and fungicides; the 2, 2’-Dithiobisbenzothiazole chemical specified in H.R. 5766 is known to kill water life it may contact by runoff, and H.R. 5768’s Cyanuric chloride is banned from agricultural use throughout Europe due to its poisonous effects.
Currently, cosmetics and personal care products do not require any review or regulatory compliance. Lance’s Cosmetic Safety Amendments Act would allow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to have authority over these products prior to their release, however.