[Ingredient Watch] Update on the Formaldehyde Front

Cosmetics Design is reporting that the Cosmetic Ingredient Review has plans to “take another look” at formaldehyde.

This is good because the Cosmetic Ingredient Review is “the expert panel – containing scientists and physicians nominated by consumer groups, government and the industry -  [that] reviews and assesses cosmetic ingredient safety data” for the beauty industry. They’re the wunderkind behind awkward gems like this one and also the rule that says formaldehyde is safe for use in cosmetics as long as we keep it to below 0.2 percent. That would be the memo that Brazilian Blowout lost when it put up to 12 percent formaldehyde in its products. Nope, we’re not over that yet.

In fact, us being in such a lather about that is why CIR is taking another look-see at its position on the probable carcinogen. They are getting right down to business, says CIR director Alan Andersen: “Regarding the time frame, we are going to discuss it at our December 12-13 meeting. Presuming the expert panel reopens it, we will do a scientific literature review on it and some time next year would have an amended safety report.”

Ohhh, to be a fly on the wall at that meeting. Someone, pretty please, invite me! Or sneak me in under your lab coat! I’ll be really quiet and well-behaved.

This is all a bit of a deal because the CIR is basically the only group that evaluates cosmetic ingredients for safety. They supply the FDA with all of its data. Yep, you read that right. The beauty industry supplies the FDA with all of the data the FDA uses to decide whether beauty industry products are safe. That’s because the FDA doesn’t have enough manpower to do their own safety testing, so they’re just like, “Sweet! The industry did our homework for us!” And I’m like, “but wait — wouldn’t the industry have a really good incentive to conclude all of its ingredients are safe? Can anyone check on that?”

Nope, they can’t. And so, while the EU has banned some 1200 chemicals for use in cosmetics, the FDA has only restricted about nine, based on the CIR’s data. So, especially with activists and salon workers are calling for a Brazilian Blowout recall and the California attorney general launching a lawsuit against the company… yeah, now would be a fine time for CIR to take a closer look at formaldehyde and see if maybe they want to reopen that file.

Of course, it would be even better if the CIR’s safety standards were anything more than voluntary. That 0.2 percent is really just a strongly worded suggestion. Like when I encourage my cat not to sit on the table.

PS. You can join the recall effort here.

PPS. You don’t get a picture with this post because everything to do with formaldehyde has creepy dead stuff floating in it. And I just thought, “No need to beat them over the head with it.”

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4 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Posted November 17, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I think I’ve gone into total denial about most of these issues, mostly as a way to preserve my sanity while pregnant and now breastfeeding. It is so overwhelming to think about the substances that enter our bodies, as well as what we are potentially passing along to un- or newly-born offspring. It is equally frightening to think that, without activism, there are few checks on the CIR’s reviews.

    • Posted November 18, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      I think a healthy level of denial can be necessary and protective when you’re pregnant and breastfeeding… there is just too much stuff to worry about. And really, it shouldn’t be the job of the new mom to figure this stuff out! You SHOULD be able to trust beauty companies to make safer products… emphasis on the SHOULD. And, sigh.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Formaldehyde Take Two : No More Dirty Looks on November 17, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    [...] understand this better, and to have a good laugh, check out Virginia’s great post on Beauty Schooled about it. And let’s all keep making noise, yeah? It’s clearly stirring things [...]

  2. By Pretty Price Check (07.22.11) | Beauty Schooled on July 25, 2011 at 11:47 am

    [...] I know we’ve spent a lot more time talking body image lately, but the eco-health risk of beauty products is an issue still close to my hear. Because the industry is not always so straight-up with us about what’s really going on. And that means we just don’t know enough about the toll these products are taking on our friends in the beauty industry, especially nail salon workers — as well as beauty consumers like you (hi, Brazilian Blowout). [...]

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