Historic U.S. Chemical Reform Aims for Less Toxic Beauty Products

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Senator Frank R. Lautenberg faught for years for Toxic Control Substance Act reform. Lautenberg passed away in 2013.
Senator Frank R. Lautenberg was a passionate fighter for Toxic Control Substance Act reform. Lautenberg passed away in 2013.

This article is part of the series, Beneath the Surface: What’s in Everyday Consumer Products. Articles in this series will examine how prevalent synthetic chemicals are in everyday products, and the consequences of their use to our health and our environment. 

Sitting on President Obama’s desk awaiting his signature is a major federal environmental bill. This historic bipartisan bill is our our nation’s first-ever overhaul of the toothless 1976 Toxic Substance Control Act. The bottom line is that this regulation is good news for Americans, but it will take years to analyze the massive backlog of untested chemicals. It’s still smart to do your beauty product homework and choose less toxic products for you and your family.

Still think natural and organic beauty products don’t work? Enter our Everyday Botanicals giveaway below, Get the chance to try natural hair care products minus the unhealthy fake scents, sulfates and parabens

Old law: Pointless federal chemical regulation

It’s widely assumed that Obama will sign the updated chemical regulation law. 

Passed in 1976, the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) gave us a false sense of security. Most of us assume that the Environmental Protection Agency has been looking out for citizens and has been ensuring that safe chemicals go to market and that unsafe or environmentally damaging chemicals are banned. 

Not true. TSCA is so poorly written and with so many protections for manufacturers that the law’s net result is that TSCA is essentially a database listing 84,000 chemicals. TSCA does not require manufacturers to test chemicals prior to use. Even better, the 62,000 chemicals in use prior to 1976 were grandfathered and deemed safe with no testing.

The updated chemical bill recently passed by the Senate and Congress is named in honor of the late Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, a passionate champion for chemical safety reform. The Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act isn’t perfect, but the law finally gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority and funding to start regulating chemicals.

The Chemical Safety Act for the 21st Century gives the EPA authority to:

1. Require manufacturers to conduct safety tests on new chemicals on health and environmental factors only.

2. Restrict or ban the use of a chemical.

3. Test chemicals before market use. Ask manufacturers for detailed chemical data.

4. Determine if a chemical is safe for use without regard to economic costs.

Health Risks are Serious

The sobering part of this story is how many chemicals need to be analyzed. Only 200 or so chemicals in use have been vetted. The EPA has announced the 90 questionable chemicals they’ll start on first. It will be years before the first decisions will be announced. Included on the EPA’s “hot toxin list” are bisphenol A (lines food cans), styrene (foam food containers), arsenic and asbestos. Many green and public health groups are peeved that the bill doesn’t allow states to regulate chemicals on their own anymore; the new federal law overrides any new state-level chemical laws. 

Loads of research links chemicals found in everyday consumer products to a host of serious health issues. Check out Thrive Market’s three minute video which lists the top five ingredients to avoid and why. Other smart resources to dial-up your toxin know-how are the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Safer Chemicals, Healthier Families.


It’s still up to you

The good news is that nonprofit watch dog groups, health groups and consumers have been demanding less toxic consumer products. Manufacturers have responded and it’s now easy to find affordable, toxic-free and effective products. Check out our article giving tips about where to buy greener cleaning products. The same retail outlets sells organic and natural personal care products, too. 

Turns out Maryland boasts a key player in natural and organic product industry. Based in Odenton, Happy Farm Botanicals is a laboratory that not only produces natural and organic products for many of the beauty market’s top brands, but they also sell their own Everyday Botanicals and PRZMAN lines. 

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act will help as more and more questionable chemicals will be tested with the potential that some will be discontinued,” said Hamed Alaghebandian, CEO of Happy Farm Botanicals. “The real sea change for consumers will be when the industry’s big boys choose greener science and sell products minus some of these questionable ingredients.”

Enter our Everyday Botanicals giveaway by entering a comment below.
Enter our Everyday Botanicals giveaway by entering a comment below.

Alaghebandian offers some advice to help us make informed choices. “The Environmental Working Group offers the Skin Deep online database which allows consumers to search for 60,000+ cosmetic products. Learn exactly what chemicals are in your favorite products. The Skin Deep web site also rates each product’s levels of toxicity. Our Everyday Botanicals products are formulated to score a one or two on the EWG Skin Deep database.” Everyday Botanicals contain no synthetic fragrances, parabens, sulfates or petrochemicals.

Win Free Everday Botanicals Hair Care Product!

Need more inspiration to go toxin-free? Three lucky Baltimore Fishbowl readers will win a shampoo and conditioner set. Winners can choose the kit based on their hair type. Leave a comment below. Winners will be selected at random at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Good luck!

(Posted 6/22/16 by Laurel Peltier: President Obama signed the bill June 22, 2016)

Other articles in the Beneath the Surface series:

Why Choosing Toxic-Free Cleaning Products is a Smart Move

What’s That Pretty Smell Messing with our Hormones?

Filtering Baltimore’s drinking water: It’s worth the trouble

How Flame Retardant are American Breasts?

Is Nonstick Cookware Safe?

Buying Safe Seafood in Baltimore’s Fishbowl

Is the Chemical Used to ‘Decaf ’Coffee Safe?

Big Fish: Getting Smart about Chemicals with Baltimore’s Toxin Guru McKay Jenkins

How green is your mani-pedi?

With e-Cloth, Just Add Water for Household Cleaning

Laurel Peltier
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  1. I applaud those who work tirelessly to make a world safer and less toxic. Just plain common sense! Thank you…Keep making those products as I buy them!

  2. So glad you’re talking about this. It’s important for people to educate themselves. I buy my green household cleaners, detergents, and great healthy beauty products from relayfoods.com.

    Something worth noting is the unnecessary amount of animal testing on beauty products and other household products. There are ways to test chemicals without torturing animals, and many chemicals have already been tested enough that testing is unnecessary.

    Most ethical and green product companies will not test on animals, but people can download an amazing free app by the Beagle Freedom Project (yes, many things are tested on Beagles, because they don’t fight back) called “Cruelty Cutter” and it will scan bar codes and list all anyone needs to make educated purchases.

  3. Excited to hear progress (even if it is slow) is being made. Would love to try out Everyday Botanicals shampoo and conditioners!

  4. So excited to hear about the legislative progress! I support those brands that have been doing it right all along. I’d love to try this product!

  5. Thank you for entering the giveaway. Three names were pulled out of the fishbowl. Thank you to Happy Farm Botanicals for making great toxin-free products and for donating to our giveaway.

    The winners are: Rebecca, Planet Mom, and J.J. Enjoy the hair care products and go green!

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