Have you every tried to learn what the ingredients on the labels for shampoo actually are? Personal care items, like soap, shampoo, and cosmetics, utilize preservatives to maintain freshness. Without preservatives, these products would quickly develop bacteria, dry out, and produce an odor as they decay. Instead of using a wide variety of natural preservatives, companies often opt for synthetic preservatives that scientists created to be more cost effective and longer lasting. However, further testing concludes certain synthetic preservatives parabens harm consumers. Some chemicals cause cancer and infertility, yet companies continued to sell products with these chemicals. In the European Union, over one thousand chemicals are banned for use in cosmetics ("European Laws"). The United States currently bans eight ingredients from beauty products and restricts the amount of three more chemicals ("Ingredients Prohibited & Restricted"). The government place more regulations on the personal care and cosmetic industries to eliminate carcinogens and other harmful ingredients that can lead to death by adopting the European Unions’ regulations on the cosmetic industry.
According to the Federal Drug Administration of the United States, a cosmetic product legally may include a safe amount of the three ingredients, including mercury ("Ingredients Prohibited & Restricted"). However, the FDA cannot ensure all consumers come in contact with less than the certain “safe” amount of these chemicals. For example, mercury accumulates over time in humans from air near coal-burning factories and food as well as cosmetics and contributes to at least 143,000 deaths worldwide (Kennedy and Yaggi). Different people can tolerate different levels of mercury and other chemicals in their cosmetics based on their exposure elsewhere ("Health Effects of Mercury"). The FDA cannot guarantee people stay under a dangerous level of exposure to harmful chemicals if they allow them in cosmetics because they cannot control other factors. Thus, the government should not allow harmful chemicals in cosmetics at all.
Makeup and other personal care items do not merely sit on top of the skin. The skin absorbs harmful chemicals, the lungs inhale airborne particles from powders, the mouth ingests chemicals from lipstick and other lip products. Nanoparticles in powders and sprays absorb easily into skin (“Top Tips for Safer Products”). Once the chemicals breach the skin, they move to the bloodstream. As blood flows through though the body, it distributes harmful chemicals all over the body.
Most women continue using cosmetics during pregnancy. In pregnant women, harmful chemicals can diffuse from the mother’s blood to the fetal blood. In developing fetuses, mercury exposure can cause neurological damage, leading to low intelligence and lack of coordination. ("Health Effects of Mercury"). Parabens mimic the effects of estrogen. Exposure to parabens as a fetus has been linked to infertility in males ("Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer"). Cancer is not a disease; it is a disorder where cells divide rapidly and uncontrollably as a result of mutations in the cells DNA. The cancer cells do not preform any beneficial function to the body. Instead, they restrict the ability of noncancerous cells to preform their intended function. Without treatment, the cancer invades crucial areas of the body until their victim dies. Carcinogens do not simply “give people cancer.” Instead, they cause mutations in the cells DNA, which may cause the cell to become cancerous. Exposing babies to carcinogens not only increases their risk of developing cancerous mutations, but also potentially life-threatening mutations. By regulating cosmetics according to the European Union standard, we stop exposing innocent children to chemicals that could cause them death or life with a disability.
Because parabens mimic estrogen, they may cause breast cancer. Estrogen is a hormone that causes cells in the breast to divide. The addition of parabens can artificially trigger unwelcome division. After many parabens-induced divisions, cells may make a mistake while copying the DNA and the cell could wind up with a cancerous mutation ("Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer"). Breast cancer is the second most common cancer after prostate cancer and it has the third most deaths after Lung and Colorectal cancer. Over 40,000 Americans die from breast cancer every year, yet the government won't take a simple measure to protect American consumers ("Common Cancer Types"). Most Americans knew someone who died at the hands of cancer; this is not some obscure disease. Yet the government has yet to take the simple step of removing carcinogens from cosmetics.
The economic consequences of regulating cosmetics are insignificant compared to the consumers' safety. The companies will have to spend money reformulating their products. However, giving companies ten to fifteen years to reformulate their products minimizes the impact on the economy. The government could offer incentives to companies that reformulate their products before the ten or fifteen year deadline. Still, the costs of reformulating may get passed on to the consumer, leaving people with a lower income less access to cosmetics. As unfair as this sounds unfair, keeping low-income women healthy and alive is more important than their access to cosmetics. Makeup is not a necessity; people do not need makeup to live. Forgoing makeup is safer than to expose yourself to the carcinogens and other harmful chemicals. The price increase won't even be very significant. Companies reformulate products anyway, so their scheduled reformulation that they put away money to fund could fall in the ten or fifteen year regulation period. Some large companies sell products in Europe and the United States but use different formulas; the European formula is different to exclude restricted ingredients. The European division could share its formula with its American counterpart. Obviously they would not share with different companies. Some people may argue that natural preservatives cost more than the harmful ones. However, expensive companies like MAC, Lancôme, Dior, and Chanel use harmful chemicals like parabens, but Burt's Bees offers relatively safer products for a fraction of the cost. While the lip product with the highest lead concentration is Benetint by Benefit Cosmetics, a product that retails for thirty dollars, Wet 'n Wild sells a lead-free lipstick for two dollars. In fact, some of the world's largest makeup companies, Revlon and L'Oreal, pledged to gradually reformulate their products to meet European Union standards ("Nonprofits: Endose the Campaign"). These standards are not harsh; the EU still has a competitive cosmetic industry with a variety of products ranging from cheap to luxury.
The United States has banned ingredients before that were deemed harmful. Recently, the FDA has moved toward banning trans fats from all foods because they increase risk for cardiovascular disease (Jalonick). Trans fats are common in cheaper foods, and food is necessary for life. Not only will this move cause many companies to reformulate, but it also has economic repercussions for farmers (Knutson). This shows the FDA has placed safety above economic interests and raising the costs for consumers if the evidence and public opinion are against that harmful component. They must stay consistent and do it will all substances shown to cause harm.
The United States should restrict ingredients used in personal care products, such as shampoo, soap, and cosmetics. Investigators linked many of these chemicals to cancer. When women who are pregnant or may be pregnant in the future (chemicals like mercury can linger) use products with these chemicals, they can inhibit development of vital systems, like the nervous system, or cause unviable genetic mutations. The government should take precautions, like a ten to fifteen year deadline, when making this transition to safer cosmetics to minimize repercussions. To move the FDA to action, people must write to them expressing their concern with the number of harmful ingedients in cosmetics.
"Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer Risk." American Cancer Society. N.p., 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
"Common Cancer Types." National Cancer Institute. National Institutes of Health, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.
"European Laws." The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Safe Cosmetics Action Network, 2011. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.
"Health Effects of Mercury." United States Environmental Protection Agency. N.p., 9 July 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
"Ingredients Prohibited & Restricted by FDA Regulations." U.S. Food and Drug Administration. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 22 June 1996. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.
Jalonick, Mary Clare. "FDA to Ban Trans Fats." Huffington Post 7 Nov. 2013: n. pag. Huffington Post. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.
Kennedy, Robert F., Jr., and Marc A. Yaggi. "Mercury Poisoning Is a Growing Global Menace We Have to Address." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
Knutson, Jonathan. "FDA Ban Would Affect Area Farmers." Grand Folks Herald 19 Nov. 2013: n. pag. Grand Folks Herald. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.
"Nonprofits: Endose the Campaign." The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Safe Cosmetics Action Network, 2011. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.
"Top Tips for Safer Products." Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Environmental Working Group, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
*If anyone wants links to the websites I used, just ask.
**Please comment with any additional arguments you can think of!