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Safe Cosmetics Act Threatens Future of Small Businesses

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Safe Cosmetics Act Threatens Future of Small Businesses

HR 5786, the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, was introduced in the US House of Representatives last week with the intention to keep potentially harmful ingredients out of of Americans' personal care products. Sounds like a good thing, right? If so, why is this bill so controversial? “Harmful chemicals have no place in the products we put on our bodies or on our children’s bodies,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) in a statement released to the press on HR 5786 by Schakowsky and the other sponsors of the bill,  Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc. “Our cosmetics laws are woefully out of date—manufacturers aren’t even required to disclose all their ingredients on labels, leaving Americans unknowingly exposed to harmful mystery ingredients. This bill will finally protect those consumers.” Schakowksy is certainly right about cosmetics laws being due for an overhaul. The last time they were updated was in 1938. Under current law, the cosmetics industry is responsible for governing the safety of the ingredients in its own products. The new law, if passed, would transfer this responsibility to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Again, why would updating cosmetics laws this old be a point of contention? Because the bill as it currently stands places unrealistic requirements on small businesses who make bath and beauty products. This is ironic, as many of the small business owners that buy labels from us for their bath and beauty products started their businesses because product safety was their primary concern. They couldn't find personal care products that they felt good about letting their families use on store shelves, so they created their own. There are many parts of the bill that will result in a great deal of paperwork that will burden most small business owners. Section 614, Cosmetic and Ingredient Testing and Safety, however, is the most troubling piece of the proposed legislation. It contains requirements that will utterly crush small businesses if this bill passes as it is currently written. Here's what it says:

‘SEC. 614. COSMETIC AND INGREDIENT TESTING AND SAFETY.

‘(a) Publicly Available Cosmetic and Ingredient Test Data-

‘(1) SUBMISSION OF INFORMATION-

‘(A) INITIAL SUBMISSION- Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, manufacturers and distributors of cosmetics and ingredients shall submit to the Secretary (in an electronic format that the Secretary shall determine) all reasonably available information in the possession or control of the manufacturer or distributor that has not previously been submitted to the Secretary regarding the physical, chemical, and toxicological properties of single or multiple chemicals listed on the cosmetic labels under section 613, including–

‘(i) functions and uses;

‘(ii) exposure and fate information;

***‘(iii) tests of finished cosmetics; and

‘(iv) any other information used to substantiate the safety of such cosmetics or ingredients.

Under current law, cosmetics manufacturers can use any ingredient currently approved by the FDA. The Safe Cosmetics Act, however, would require every personal care product made to be independently tested, including ones made exclusively of ingredients already approved by the FDA. This requirement would suck up a lot of small business owners' time, slow their product to market launch time, an undoubtedly result in additional reams of paperwork. Most notable, however, is that it would cost businesses a lot of money to meet the testing requirements. It would require more money than small business owners have. These required testing fees would put many small businesses out of business for good.

With testing fees starting at $25,000 per product and 130 eyeshadow colors in her product line, Sarah Waller, founding owner of Sweet Libertine Mineral Cosmetics, wrote on her blog that this part of the Safe Cosmetics Act would require her to spend $3,250,000 to be able to sell a jar of $5 eyeshadow. Sarah's writeup on the Safe Cosmetics Act, by the way, is fabulous. She goes through the entire ten-page bill, explaining in clear and simple terms how each section would impact her and other small business owners if it became law. I highly suggest reading her analysis of HR 5786 for yourself.

Then, if you would like to see what one of the bill's most powerful supporters is saying about HR 5786, visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website.

Finally, I encourage you to let your legislators know whether or not you support this piece of legislation and why. Anyone who buys American-made personal care products would be affected by the Safe Cosmetics Act. That said, I especially encourage the small business owners reading this who make bath and beauty products to let lawmakers know how it would personally affect you, your business, and your customers. In addition to contacting your legislators, I encourage you to consider signing the petition opposing the Safe Cosmetics Act started by the The Indie Beauty Network. Many of our customers who make bath and body products are involved with The Indie Beauty Network, which recently launched a new website dedicated to the opposition of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010.

And of course, please feel free to share your opinions and business stories in the comments below. We print a lot of beautiful bath and body product labels for some really great people here at Lightning Labels. It would truly be a sad day to see that stop happening because a law that was supposedly designed to protect the average American forced thousands of small business owners to close their doors.