Bill to ban harmful chemicals in toilertry products go down the drain

By Jimy Valenti

Check your medicine cabinet. A proposed bill banning 15 harmful chemicals in personal care products, including arsenic and formaldehyde, died in a legislative committee this week.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, said that many beauty products as common as Old Spice deodorant and Revlon lipstick might cause cancer as trace amounts of various compounds accumulate over time.

The bill would have enacted the toughest regulations in the U.S. banning a list of 15 toxins from the personal care industry in Colorado based on a European Union ban of those chemicals in 2004. Companies found selling products containing a banned substance would have faced up to $100,000 in fines.

“You shouldn’t have to be a chemist to shop for shampoo,” Primavera said.

The House Judiciary Committee killed House Bill 1248 with a bi-partisan 7-4 vote, citing a lack of scientific evidence linking trace amounts of toxic chemicals found in many beauty products to cancer. Some chemicals are also found naturally in the environment.

Primavera, a four-time cancer survivor, said her doctor struggled to find her cancer’s cause. Primavera didn’t smoke or drink and was a healthy 38-year-old when she was first diagnosed. She said she believes the dozen personal care products that she used daily, contained cancer causing ingredients.

Opponents, including scientists from Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, testified that cosmetic chemicals are not harmful when only measured in parts per billion — a single drop of water in an Olympic size swimming pool.

“The notion that somehow these chemicals are out of control and could lead to someone getting cancer is beyond scientific credibility,” said John Bailey, a scientist with the Personal Care Products Council in Washington D.C. who previously worked for the Food and Drug Administration. “You would have to eat three tubes of lipstick a day for 70 years to reach conceivable levels of lead to cause cancer.”

CU Integrative Physiology professor, Mike Norris, said even minute amounts of toxins in beauty products are dangerous when used daily over many years and in combination with other products.

“Your product is not a problem by itself,” said Norris. “The problem is your product doesn’t exist by itself.”

Norris said scientists opposing the bill were only considering overt toxicity — the introduction of disease or death — when testifying that someone would need to consume massive amounts of a product to get cancer.

“The chemicals listed in this bill all have an overt toxicity, but also have other kinds of toxicities,” said Norris. “They are producing effects on our antimony, physiology and behavior at much lower doses than previously thought. Parts per billion or trace amounts are the level in which chemical reactions take place in our bodies.”

The bill was modeled after European Union regulations that ban 1,100 chemicals from personal care products, although representatives from many worldwide personal care companies said they offer the same products in Europe and the U.S. Canada also has similar legislation and California requires companies to list all ingredients.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, voted for the bill because she said she is appalled at the number of toxins found in the environment.

“We don’t know what we are doing to our bodies,” said Levy. “We don’t know what safe levels are and what aren’t.”

Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver, also voted for the bill. He said that there is not enough research that completely clears trace amounts of compounds from causing carcinogenic activity in human cells.

Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, said a causal connection has not been made between using cosmetics and cancer. He cited testimony saying trace amounts of these chemicals are found in dirt, soil and drinking water.

“I’m not ready to draw a distinction today between cosmetics and the grass I roll around in with my children,” said Waller.

Waller also said he feared frivolous lawsuits could be filed because chemists can find small amounts of the 15 chemicals in many products.

“I have the same morning routine as most women,” said Primavera at a press conference introducing the bill. “I shampoo my hair and wash my face. I brush my teeth, put on moisturizer, deodorant, and finish with makeup. It was the same routine for 40 years and now I realize my daily regimen could be lethal.”

Voting against the bill were Democrats Lois Court, Daniel Kagan and Sal Pace along with Republicans Bob Gardner, Steve King, B.J. Nikkel and Mark Waller. Democrats Claire Levy, Beth McCann, Joe Miklosi and Su Ryden voted yes.