Organic Consumers Association

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The Ugly Side of Beauty, Some Cosmetics Can be Toxic

It didn't get much attention nationally, just a few paragraphs in papers such as the Kennebec Journal and a segment on the local news.

But the quiet protest by a group of high school and college students in Waterville, Maine, in February was one of a growing number across the country. They gathered at the post office to mail 12 beauty products to an environmental lab, where they would be tested for toxins and other dangerous ingredients that many commonly used products contain.

"As young people, we're coming together to put our cosmetics on trial," said Anne Sheldon, a member of the Maine Women's Lobby, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping women through public policy.

"The European Union has banned more than 1,000 ingredients from cosmetics, while the United States has banned only 10."

The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1936 has only two pages that relate to cosmetics, and it has not been updated despite a sea change in the industry. The fact is, the Food and Drug Administration has no authority to make cosmetics companies test products for safety or recall products that are found to be harmful.

Although the average woman uses a dozen personal care products each day that contain a total of 168 chemicals and the average man uses six products containing 85 chemicals, there is no federal regulation of these ingredients.

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