Nebraskans advocate for personal care product regulation in Congress
Do you know what ingredients are in your shampoo? How about your toothpaste, deodorant or makeup?
In the European Union, more than 1,300 ingredients are banned from personal care products like these. In comparison, the U.S. only prohibits 30.
When we're using these products every day, we want to know what's going on our bodies.
"All those things have ingredients – and just because they're not prescription, doesn't mean they couldn't be potentially harmful," said Dr. Margaret Kontras Sutton with Sutton Dermatology + Aesthetics in Lincoln.
Some harmful ingredients include retinol, which can damage DNA and cause tumors, formaldehyde, a preservative that has been found to cause cancer, and parabens.
"Parabens are a fairly common allergen – in other words, a lot of people are allergic to parabens, but yet they're just ubiquitous, they're everywhere," Dr. Sutton said.
However, bills have been introduced in Congress over the past few years to regulate the way our personal care products are made.
You can find the 115th Congress bills linked here: Personal Care Products Safety Act (S. 1113) and Safe Cosmetics And Personal Care Products Act of 2018 (H.R. 6903).
The most recent bill for the 116th Congress is in the Senate, linked here: Personal Care Products Safety Act (S. 726).
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry commented on the bill in the House, saying in part, "Safety in cosmetics and personal care products is an important issue receiving increasing attention in Congress. Recently, the head of the Food and Drug Administration answered questions in this regard before my committee. One key takeaway was that Congress needs to give the FDA specific authority to require warning labels on cosmetics and personal care products."
Consultants for a company called Beautycounter also visited Washington D.C. to meet with senators like Sen. Deb Fischer to advocate for the bill in the Senate.
Amy Asbjornson-Nelson is originally from Lincoln and now lives in Axtell. She was one of those who traveled to the nation's capital as a director with Beautycounter. She says Sen. Fischer was very receptive to what they had to say.
"While we didn't get an immediate yes that she would support the bill, it was a great step in introducing more senators to the work that Beautycounter's doing on the Hill in Washington," Asbjornson-Nelson said.
Beautycounter takes on their own form of regulation, with 1,500 ingredients on their "Never List" that they keep out of all their products.
Nebraska native Jolene Muller was introduced and eventually began working for Beautycounter after searching for safer products for her mother, who was undergoing cancer treatments.
"It was kind of one of those 'Ah-ha!' moments when I turned around a shampoo bottle and started reading the ingredients and I just thought you know, I don't think this is causing the cancer but I don't think it's helping, either," Muller said.
Now, Jolene hopes these bills pass through Congress so she and her loved ones can have peace of mind as they use their every day products.
Both bills are currently in the committee stage, but if passed, they would require the FDA to do things like review the safety of at least five ingredients each year, and recall those deemed harmful to consumers.
To learn more about Beautycounter, you can contact Amy Asbjornson-Nelson at (402) 224-0065 or Amy.Asbjornson@gmail.com.