5 On Your Side

Congress seeking FDA oversight of skin care chemicals

Posted November 18, 2015 4:33 p.m. EST

— U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is leading a bipartisan effort to give the Food & Drug Administration more power to test for and limit potentially dangerous chemicals used in skin and beauty products.

Under the proposed law, the FDA could recall any products that didn't meet safety guidelines.

"The only thing the FDA regulates in terms of cosmetics is the colorants. Other than that, it's completely unregulated," said Heather Patisaul, an associate professor of biology at North Carolina State University who studies how chemicals impact brain development, especially early in life.

Patisaul testified before Congress in September about her research, and Feinstein took notice.

"Our laws should provide for adequate testing of chemicals before they go into widely used products," the California Democrat said.

For example, cancer-causing formaldehyde is in nail polish and chemical hair straighteners, and lead acetate is used in hair dye.

The European Union bans more than 1,000 chemicals from personal care products. Of those, the U.S. bans 11.

Feinstein said she expects the bill to pass. It even has the support of the $50 billion-a-year industry as more consumers demand safer products.

In the meantime, Patisaul said people can take steps to limit their exposure to chemicals in skin care and beauty products.

"One of the easiest things consumers can do to minimize chemical exposure in their home is to buy everything fragrance free – your laundry detergent, your household cleaners, shampoos, things like that," she said.