U.S. women faith leaders call for greater oversight of cosmetics

Published March 22, 2012

Women of faith are urging Congress to protect women’s and children’s health by reforming the 74 year-old cosmetics law to ensure that cosmetics are free of chemicals linked to reproductive harm. Photo: Geanina Bechea

Washington, D.C.  – Women religious leaders in the U.S. called on March 22 for greater government oversight of the cosmetics industry to protect children and the environment from toxic chemicals.

"Scripture tells us that we were made in God’s image," said Chloe Schwabe, environmental health program manager at the National Council of Churches (NCC), according to an NCC news release.

"Yet when we use personal care products such as lotion, deodorant and body wash we apply an average of 100 chemicals on our body daily which are linked to chronic disease, cancer, and reproductive harm," Schwabe said.

"In order to protect God’s handiwork, we must reform the 1938 cosmetics law so that the FDA (the federal Food and Drug Administration) can guarantee the safety of everyday cosmetics," she said.

The statement by faith leaders coincides with the March 27 House of Representatives Energy and Commerce hearing on FDA warnings about mercury in face cream and formaldehyde in keratin hair smoothers and the release of FDA product testing results which found lead in hundreds of popular lipsticks.

"Women, children, low-income communities, and communities of color are uniquely vulnerable to the unregulated toxic chemicals found in personal care products," the statement said. "We believe it is the federal government’s role to regulate chemicals and ensure personal care products are safe. Knowing that the products we use can contribute to the suffering of others is a challenge to our conscience as people of faith."

Sister Janet Stankowski of Voices for Earth Justice, who also signed the statement, said, "low-income women lack access to non-toxic cosmetics and bear a disproportionate chemical burden in the workplace. Nail salon workers, for instance, are exposed to chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm for ten hours a day. We must protect low-income women and workers from carcinogens and reproductive toxicants."

Jenny Holmes of Ecumenical Ministry of Oregon, another signer to the statement, said, "We are called to care for our body as a temple. The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration found formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen, in a popular hair smoother last year. In the absence of federal regulation, the state issued a warning but this does not fully protect women and workers in Oregon, New Jersey, or anywhere."

"Women of faith are calling on Congress to protect women’s and children’s health by reforming the 74 year-old cosmetics law with a meaningful approach that ensures that cosmetics are free of chemicals linked to reproductive harm," said Robin Fillmore, women’s advocacy coordinator for Church Women United and the NCC.

Founded in 1950, the NCC includes 37 member communions with 45 million members.


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