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But aren't these chemicals tested?

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You could be forgiven for expecting that regulatory authorities would do their utmost to ensure rigorous safety testing of all ingredients in personal care products. Sadly this seems to be a utopian vision, rather than a reality. Why is this the case? According to Elizabeth-Green, former director of WWF-UK's Toxics Programme and current director of CHEM Trust:

The research always seems to come out a long time in advance of the policy that is subsequently developed. That is why organizations like WWF; Greenpeace and CHEM Trust are working to try and reduce that lag between finding out that a chemical is toxic and getting it properly controlled and, if necessary, legislated off the market.

We have always been running to catch up. A chemical goes on the market, we find it's horrid and then we produce some legislation to deal with that. What we have not done until recently is to reverse the onus of proof, making companies take the responsibility for their chemicals.This has to be a more intilligent modus operandi.

In the European Union (EU) and its member states the manufacture and marketing of cosmetics comes under the regulatory framework of the European Cosmetics Directive (no.76/768/EEC) and is subsequent amendments, often with conflicting provisions and inconsistent terminology.

The Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) produces opinions on the safety of cosmetic and non-food products intended for consumers and issues guidelines for safety evaluation to be taken into consideration by cosmetics manufacturers which are according to the European Commission, largely ignored. Cosmetic manufacturers are required to maintain foo manufacturing practices, bu the regulation provides no definition of what this entails. Ultimately the burden of proof for assessing the safety of products rests with the industry itself, who often seem to be more concerned with profit than consumer health, frequently perceiving attempts at government regulation or intervention as an obstacle to product innovation and free trade.

It is also the case that averse effects from cosmetics are not as widely reported as reactions to food and drugs. Individuals tend to just stop using the suspected products and any negative effects are not usually so instantaneously life-threatening, therefore they receive less government attention. Pilot studies conducted by the Council of Europe (COE) in Austria, Denmark, France and Norway revealed that only around 25 per cent of consumers suffering from unpleasant reactions to cosmetic products consulted a physician.

Europe is endeavouring to get its act together to better regulate the industry. The seventh amendment to the Cosmetics Directive introduced an animal testing ban, prohibited the continued use of three classes of toxic substances  - carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxicants (CMR)  - and required the labelling of 26 fragrance ingredients that may instigate allergic reactions. And, in 2007, legislation was introduced intended to test a large number of chemicals. This is called REACH  (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) and is described below.
  • The European Commission are also proposing a single EU law on cosmetic products with the intention of cutting costs and strengthening manufacture responsibility.
  • Reference: Toxic Beauty: Dawn Mellowship

 

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