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Sweet Victory Update: Cleaning Up Cosmetics | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Sweet Victory Update: Cleaning Up Cosmetics

Months ago, we celebrated the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics' impressive drive to eliminate toxic ingredients from beauty products. Due to an FDA loophole, which exempts personal care product manufacturers from government oversight, many of the cosmetics on shelves today may contain known or probable carcinogens (see Mark Schapiro's "A Makeover for the Cosmetics Industry.")

But by last Mother's Day, the campaign had successfully encouraged more than a hundred companies to sign a compact banning ingredients that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, genetic mutation or birth defects from their products.

Recently, the campaign scored an even bigger victory for consumer rights--this one on the legislative front. On October 8th, despite vigorous opposition from the cosmetics and chemical industries, the California Safe Cosmetics Bill was signed into law. The bill--which requires manufacturers to disclose to the California'sDepartment of Health Services any product ingredients linked to cancer, mutations, or birth defects--is the first of its kind in America. After two years of coordinated efforts by the Breast Cancer Fund, Breast Cancer Action and the National Environmental Trust (NET), California residents will finally have the right to know what's behind their beauty products.

According to Stacey Malkan of the Environmental Working Group, the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrance Association (CTFA) fought tooth and nail against the bill, lobbying heavily and shelling out more than $600,000 in a vain attempt to defeat it. "The cosmetics industry opposed this bill as though it were a peasant revolt rather than a right to know bill," said Andy Igrejas, Environmental Health Director of NET. "Now we'll find out what they were so afraid of."

Once the ugly face of the cosmetics industry is revealed, the hope is that companies will finally make the switch to safe ingredients, not only in California but nationwide. A beautiful future indeed!

We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by e-mailing nationvictories@gmail.com.

Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.

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