By Dianne Feinstein

Originially appeared in The Guardian

In the US, virtually none of the chemicals used in personal care products are independently evaluated for safety. Americans of all ages use these products every day – from lotion to shampoo, makeup to deodorant, hair dye to shaving cream – and many of the chemicals they contain are rapidly absorbed by the skin.

With increasing evidence that certain chemicals in personal care products are linked to a variety of health concerns, there is an urgent need to update the 80-year-old federal rules aimed at ensuring their safety.

Formaldehyde, which is used in Brazilian blowouts, has been associated with headaches and shortness of breath in the short term, and cancer in the long term.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which are used as preservatives in creams, lotions and shampoos, have been linked to diabetes, obesity, reproductive disorders and even cancer.

And lead acetate, which is used in men’s hair dye, has also been linked to cancer.

The European Union and Canada have reviewed the ingredients in personal care products for decades. More than 1,500 chemicals are banned or restricted in Europe, while more than 800 are banned or restricted in Canada.

Due to outdated US laws, only 11 substances are banned or restricted. It’s long past time for the US to catch up.

The Personal Care Products Safety Act would finally address this glaring safety loophole.

The central component of the bill is an FDA review process for ingredients. The FDA would review at least five chemicals a year, chosen based on input from consumers, medical professionals, scientists and companies.

This process would address which chemicals can continue to be used in personal care products and, if so, what the concentration levels should be.

The FDA may determine that some chemicals, such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, are not appropriate in any products, or are only appropriate in small amounts.

The key for many chemicals may be how much is used. We need to know at what concentration these chemicals are unsafe.

For example, after conducting a scientific review, the FDA may determine that a particular chemical is only safe at a concentration of 10 parts per million.

Going forward, all companies would need to reformulate their products so they contained no more than 10 parts per million of that ingredient.

Companies would still have the power to adopt a stricter standard. They could use less of a particular ingredient, or not use certain ingredients at all, but the ingredient review process would finally create a uniform safety standard.

The bill would also require companies to report adverse health effects. An ongoing investigation into the popular hair cleanser Wen highlights the need for this provision.

A class action lawsuit alleging significant hair loss has been filed on behalf of thousands of consumers, and the FDA has received 127 complaints about the product.

During the course of its investigation, the FDA discovered that a staggering 21,000 complaints had been registered with the company. Under our bill, the manufacturer would have been required to tell the FDA about all complaints related to negative health effects.

In addition, the bill would require companies to register with the FDA and provide a list of their ingredients, with a range of concentration for each one.

Warning labels would be required for products not appropriate for children, and complete label information, including ingredients and product warnings, would be posted online to ensure that consumers can make informed decisions.

Lastly, the FDA would be given the authority to recall products that cause serious harm.

Our bill has the broad bipartisan support needed to move forward. Consumer and health groups, including the Environmental Working Group, Endocrine Society and Good Housekeeping Institute, and a wide range of companies support the bill.

Industry support includes both the largest companies in the industry – Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Unilever – as well as small and mid-size companies such as California Baby, Dr Bronner’s and Madison Reed.

This marks the first time federal legislation on this issue has earned the support of both consumer and industry groups. These commonsense proposals are long overdue and the US Senate should act. Consumers deserve to know that the products they and their families use every day are safe.