Home Opinion Opinion: Beauty has its price, but cancer shouldn’t be it

Opinion: Beauty has its price, but cancer shouldn’t be it

5 min read

The government shouldn’t tell me what makeup to buy. Or should it? We regulate what we put into our body, why not what we put on our body?

In a 2008 report by the Environmental Working Group, 22 percent of all cosmetic/personal care products may contain some kind of carcinogen.

One common type of carcinogen is 1,4-dioxane, which may be present in 97 percent of hair relaxers, 57 percent of baby soaps and 45 percent of sunless tanning products. Those are scary numbers but what is even scarier is that there is currently no regulation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 1,4-dioxane.

1,4-dioxane is created through a process called ethoxylation, which makes other chemicals less harsh. For example, when sodium lauryl sulfate becomes sodium laureth sulfate, it has undergone the ethoxylation process, hence the “-eth.” Because it isn’t an ingredient that companies put purposefully into their products, they don’t have to list it even if it is present. Other chemicals that may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane include those that end in  “-xynol,” “-ceteareth” and “-oleth.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers 1,4-dioxane as a probable carcinogen, and the National Toxicology Program lists it as an animal carcinogen. Additionally, it’s on California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986’s  list of chemicals that are known to cause or are suspected to cause cancer or birth defects.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I would really like to know if my shampoo or foundation is going to give me cancer.

Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-California, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, proposed legislation to allow the FDA to regulate the ingredients in cosmetics in April 2015. Within this legislation, the FDA would have to evaluate at least five chemicals per year, after which it would share the findings with cosmetic companies. Additionally, cosmetic companies would have to report adverse side effects to the FDA within 15 days.

The Personal Care Products Safety Act may seem like more government intrusion into our daily lives, but in reality, it is necessary. We should all be pushing for more regulation.

The bill could go a lot farther, and I would still support it. Only five chemicals a year? It’s the FDA … they could handle a lot more than that.

The only major drawback to legislating the cosmetic industry would be the potential increase in price for cosmetics. The bill allows the FDA to collect fees from registered companies (of course, a company has to register or it would be in big trouble with the Feds). For a company whose annual sales gross $5 billion, the fee the FDA would exact is $1.1 million.

Admittedly, that’s loose change when we’re talking $5 billion. But even so, I would be willing to pay more for cosmetics if I knew it was safe.

Hopefully I’ll have a daughter someday, and I would like to see known carcinogens removed from cosmetics before her generation starts wearing makeup. We’ve been exposed long enough.

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