A bill was recently introduced into the Colorado House that is of concern to me and should be a concern to other manufacturers and users of cosmetics, House Bill 1248 the
EPA Group A, Group B1 and Group 2B
International Research Committee on Cancer group 1, Group 2A and Group 2B
National Toxicology Program list of reproductive toxicity
NIOSH list of potential occupational carcinogens
Or identified by the FDA as a carcinogen.
One argument for this bill has been that in the European Union roughly 1,100 chemicals are banned from cosmetics while the Food and Drug Administration only bans 10. However, numbers can be deceiving and many of the 1,100 chemicals that are banned are not things that are even used in cosmetics. Nor are most of the substances found on the above lists would never be used in cosmetics. Do we really need to take the time to outlaw glass wool and plutonium from our cosmetics when they would not be used in the first place?
After reading over the lists, there are a few things on the lists of interest that you may want to know about.
1. Alcohol (ethanol) – Sure excessive drinking can cause liver damage and cancer. However, there is no evidence that alcohol on the skin causes any damage. Some cosmetics companies are using alcohol as an alternative preservative to prevent bacterial growth. Alcohol is also a common solvent used by natural perfumers.
2. Lead – no, lead should not be in cosmetics, however, lead is found in probably all water sources. Since this bill does not address limits, any product containing water could be banned.
3. Coffee – did you have your cup this morning? I hope you didn’t get it on your skin. Coffee is used in some cosmetics products such as shower scrubs because there is evidence that it can help prevent cellulite.
4. Pickled vegetables – ok, not a cosmetic ingredient but should a pickle with your sandwich be outlawed?
5. Methyl eugenol – this name may sound daunting but methyl eugenol is a wonderfully aromatic chemical that is found in essential oils of basil, citronella, cinnamon, rose as well as others. Will you really stand by and let someone take roses away from you?
6. Caffeic acid – Again, although the name may sound daunting, caffeic acid is an incredible molecule found in many plants. Many studies have found that caffeic acid can be protective against cancer. How it got on the carcinogens list is beyond me.
7. Estrogens – estrogens are a very large family of molecules that interact with the estrogen receptor. Some are thought to stimulate growth leading to cancer, others can block growth leading to cancer. Phytoestrogens from plants are known to be beneficial to the skin and slow the aging process. Many vegetable oils are high in phytoestrogens and used in skin care for the purpose of antiaging. These include rice bran oil, olive oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil, shea butter and almond oil. These and more would be disallowed.
8. Safrole- Another aromatic oil found in cinnamon and sassafras.
What this says is that any blanket list needs to be properly interpreted. Route of administration as well as dosage are important considerations. For instance, most cosmetic products contain water which is generally considered safe. However, water by inhalation is fatal. The American Cancer Society warns carcinogens do not always cause cancer or under all circumstances and that a list says nothing about the likelihood of an agent causing cancer.
Cancer research has been a big part of my life. As a scientist I spent 15 or more years studying and researching toxicology and cancer. One thing that I know is that we really do not know in much detail what causes cancer. But we do know that no one has died or gotten cancer from cosmetics products. However, people have gone blind and gotten serious infections from improperly preserved cosmetics. Cancer has also touched my life personally. I have had two siblings die of cancer so I understand the pain of cancer. But this bill is not a solution. The American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that 60% of cancer could be decreased by lifestyle changes that include; loosing weight, stop smoking, decrease alcohol consumption, exercise and eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
This bill also puts enforcement on the private citizen allowing a consumer to sue any company using any ingredient on the above lists. The bill is supported by an alarmist group called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Some companies who have signed this agreement will be in violation of this bill. If it passes will they change their formulas or just hope that they are not found out and continue to use the logo for marketing purposes?
What are your thoughts?