Posted by: mchleen | August 26, 2010

Your newest cosmetic consultant: Big Goverment!

On July 21, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (H.R. 5786), which gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful ingredients.

Sounds nice, right?  Not really.  Look closer.

We all want to believe that the choices we make are healthful ones.  And of course you’d never intentionally poison yourself or your loved ones would you?   Media outlets have recently alerted us of troubles like lead in lipsticks or the big BPA scare.  Information-sharing like this and watchdog groups are to be thanked.  They mean timely information dissemination coupled with informed resources.  Americans were able to exercise their freedoms; they asked questions, informed themselves and made choices based on what they learned.  As a consequence the market was forced to correct itself practically overnight.  Look no further than your local stores to see lengths that businesses have gone to to promote themselves as “BPA-free”, “green” or “organic.”  The real dictator in America’s product supply and offerings is the consumer, not so much the laws put in place to control the producer; demand ultimately dictates supply.

It’s hard to protest something that appears as friendly as the Safe Cosmetics Act.  Who doesn’t want things to be safer?  But our current government structure is becoming bigger and bigger.  And as it becomes responsible for more; it will become less agile, more bureaucratic, slower as it becomes entangled in its own many obligations.  And your freedom of choice will become more limited and controlled.

Is it beginning to sound like I’m all for hazardous chemicals and anarchy?  It feels like it.  Let me try to be more succinct…

This bill will not ensure that your body is safer.  It will increase the cost of your personal care and cosmetic products.  It will crush small businesses, many of whom have been the innovators of the exact greener, safer products that you desire.  And while we’re at it, shouldn’t we be revitalizing our economy – freeing-up small enterprise?

This bill will impact everyone: the large cosmetic corporation, the local organic shopfront, your Aunt Betty’s homemade lavender soaps, even you the consumer.  My beef with this bill, as it is written, is that it’s a small business murderer and will most definitely result in price inflation for consumers.  And none of that is necessary or beneficial to the consumer.  Loosen up those purse strings if this passes!  And do you like paperwork?  The government apparently does, and wants to share the burden with you.

Small business (and keep in mind that many of these “businesses” may be a single individual working out of their home) cannot support the paperwork, busy-work and expense, testing and government intervention into their business.  The higher cost of doing business under this new law is overreaching.  I will concede that there may be room for improvement in FDA regulations concerning cosmetics, but the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 in its current form is not the solution.

So, just a few points to chew on:

  1. The cosmetic industry is safe industry with a wide variety of choice on the marketplace for consumers.  It is already illegal to manufacture unsafe cosmetics and is already illegal to not fully label ingredients or contact information on products.  More labeling will not change what you don’t like about what is being produced; market demand will.
  2. In a time of economic difficulty for many Americans, the government simply cannot justify cutting small businesses off at the knees.  Some might even call it un-American.  Yikes.
  3. The bill’s reporting requirements would ask for disclosure of annual sales, number of employees, names and addresses of vendors, and proprietary formulas without making clear whether that information would have its confidentiality protected.  What business wants to help Big Brother give away their edge on the market?
  4. The busy-work involved with labeling is onerous for small business owners and practically meaningless to the consumer.  Thanks to modern science, almost everything is detectable, so labeling for say… simply “Water” would read instead, “Aqua, Arsenic, Cadmium, Copper, Lead, Nickel, Silver, Zinc” (and don’t forget those other “detectables” in our water, like caffeine, birth control, antibiotics!).  Labeling would sure get interesting wouldn’t it?  And holy cow – I can’t imagine how much small the print will have to be, or how much larger the packaging.

So maybe the bottom line here is really just my own greedy self-interest.

  • Honestly?  I don’t want to pay more.
  • More importantly?  I want all those terrific, simpler, healthier and more interesting products out there to continue to exist so that I can use them.  I like trolling and sniffing my way along the stands at the farmer’s market.

Our future success stories like Burt’s Bees, California Baby, Dr. Bronner’s, will be heavily burdened and in many cases unable to flourish under this bill.  Read up.

And if you agree, check out the Petition opposing the bill here.

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