Products Containing Hazardous Chemicals are Exposed

A new California Website exposes many of the cosmetic products that contain harmful ingredients.

Last Friday, state public health officials in California launched their new public website to expose harmful cosmetics. The Website is part of a state law passed in 2005, which aims to expose products with potentially hazardous ingredients. The online database shows all cosmetics sold in California that contain certain harmful chemicals.

The long-awaited California State Cosmetics Program Product Database is the first state-run public resource to inform consumers about potentially hazardous products. Consumers can search the website by ingredient, brand or type of product. A list of products will be shown that contain chemicals that are known to cause birth defects, reproductive harm or cancer.

It will also pressure manufacturers of everyday skin and hair products such as soap, lotion and makeup to offer formulas with safer alternatives. Director of the state Department of Public Health, Dr. Ron Chapman said, “It does not mean that the cosmetic product itself has been shown to cause cancer, but since most products are not extensively tested for safety, providing information on chemical components will allow consumers to make more informed choices.”

The state has collected information from approximately 475 companies so far in roughly 30,000 products. About 900 chemicals have been identified as harmful by organizations such as the National Toxicology Program and Proposition 65 legislation. Nerissa Wu, a state public health official who helped establish the program commented, “We are the one agency in the U.S. collecting this information on cosmetics. Our hope is that the market pressure that comes out of that … encourages manufacturers to reformulate.”

However, some advocates of the program are worried that the state lacked the resources to enforce safer standards. Senior program and policy manager at the San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Fund, Gretchen Salter said, “This doesn’t ban anything. This doesn’t restrict anything. Ultimately our feeling is these products don’t belong in cosmetics in the first place.”


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