I listened to the bulk of the Colorado hearings over House Bill 1248 yesterday (for an overview, check out the blog post here). The bill would have banned a variety of ingredients, including trace amounts of chemicals, in personal care products. On the face of the bill, it sounded great – less chemicals is a good thing right? Chemicals = Bad. Natural = Good. The problem with that sort of simplistic thinking was that in the rush to ban chemicals, some of the science and practical ramifications of the ban were overlooked.
The bill failed to get out of committee – 4 votes to 7 – for a few reasons:
1. We’re not the E.U.
Those testifying for the bill asserted that European Union had safer personal care products and that the United States should follow along in their footsteps. There was spirited discussion about whether the U.S. should follow bills from the E.U. or even model our laws after the E.U. laws. The bill, as it was written, would have allowed the E.U. to add or take away from the list of ‘acceptable’ chemicals that were used in products in Colorado.
2. Trace elements were not allowed.
Many natural products that come from the earth have trace elements in them. These elements occur in levels that are minimal or in such small amounts that they do not have anything near the levels that you would need to be exposed to in order to have a negative effect. Even apples contain trace amounts of Acetaldehyde! So if this bill had passed, we could *eat* the apple but not grind it up and put it in a fresh face mask. From Indie Beauty Blog:
This point was driven home when Dr. Richard Adamson (testifying on behalf of the Personal Care Products Council), said that in order for lip sticks that contain trace elements of lead to be injurious to human health, one would have to eat (yes, literally eat) 3-4 tubes of it a day for 70 years before it could become potentially harmful.
Dr. Adamson also said of 1,4-dioxane (which can be used as a foaming agent in cosmetics), one of the substances that would have triggered the law, that one would have to take 700 baths a day for 70 years in order for the substance to become potentially harmful to a human being.
3. Science did not back up the ban
Many testified that it seemed like a good idea to ban the chemicals, stating that we shouldn’t wait for the science to prove that the chemicals caused cancer, that instinctively, we should just know that they did. Lawmakers proved unwilling to put 1000’s of Avon and Mary Kay representatives out of business based on feeling rather than fact. From Indie Beauty Blog:
This troubled lawmakers greatly, and for good reason. Everyone who testified, both for and against the bill, repeatedly stated that the science is simply not there to say that any substance used in cosmetics causes cancer or reproductive problems, even if that substance has been determined to be toxic somewhere in the world under some testing condition.
4. It was a boon for the lawyers.
This law was not regulated by a governing body, instead leaving it up to individual citizens to find products containing the ‘bad’ ingredients and sue the manufacturer. This would be great for lawyers, not so great for the court system. In California, lawsuits from Proposition 65 have cost over $406 million, most of it going to lawyers.
In closing, I am thankful that this overly broad legislation was not passed. It would have affected far too many business owners in Colorado during a time when the economy needs small business more than ever. People in Colorado can vote with their dollars; they have a choice when purchasing personal care products. There are many, many natural cosmetic and toiletry companies in Colorado selling alternatives so that the entire spectrum of personal care is available.