Kourtney Kardashian appeared before Congress yesterday to voice her support for increased regulation in the cosmetics and personal care product industry. The reality TV star and mom of three spoke at a briefing on Capitol Hill along with members of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.
The purpose of the briefing was to rally support for the Personal Care Products Safety Act, which was introduced in the Senate last year. The bill has bipartisan support (it’s sponsored by Democrat Diane Feinstein and Republican Susan Collins), but it is still awaiting a vote on the floor. Many cosmetic companies—including industry giants like Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, and Unilever—support the bill, as well.
It’s been more than 80 years since Congress last acted to pass any sort of cosmetics legislation, said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for EWG, in the briefing. “That’s why it’s so important that Kourtney is here today to lend her voice,” he added.
“Under current law, cosmetic companies can put just about anything in cosmetics and personal care products,” Faber said. “There are few if any restrictions on the kinds of ingredients that can be added to personal care products, or the amount of those chemicals.”
The proposed new bill would “give FDA the power to review the most controversial ingredients or chemicals in personal care products, and ultimately make a determination if those ingredients are safe, or safe at certain levels, or not safe,” Faber added.
Companies would also be required to alert the FDA when products became contaminated, or when people reported adverse reactions. This would give the government the ability to stop production of products& that might pose further risk to consumers& and take them off the shelves if necessary.
Kardashian told Congressional leaders at the briefing that she became interested in the safety of personal care products when she became a mother.
“When I had my first son, I started really learning so much about the foods I was feeding him, and it just kind of snowballed,” she said. “I would get so many baby gifts, and a lot of it was products, skincare products for my kids. And I would use the things that people sent me, just assuming these are baby products and that they should be safe.”
She learned from other moms that some of these products contained toxic chemicals, so she began researching herself. Now, she said, she uses the EWG’s Healthy Living app to learn about the chemicals she sees on product labels.
According to an online survey by the EWG, women use an average of 12 personal care products a day, while men use an average of six. Over the years, the EWG has done testing to document how cosmetic chemicals end up in users' bodies. In some cases, products that women use even seem to affect their unborn or newborn babies.
Nneka Leiba, director of Healthy Living Sciences at EWG, said in the briefing that many cosmetics contain preservatives that release the toxic chemical formaldehyde. “It has also been classified as a known human carcinogen, yet we’re rubbing it on our faces like it’s no big deal,” she said.
Some hair dyes contain lead acetate, Leiba added, which can increase lead levels in the blood. Other products contain hormone-disrupting parabens, which have been linked to infertility, birth defects, and certain reproductive cancers.
"This bill will give us the oversight we’re looking for,”& Leiba said.
Kardashian admitted that avoiding potentially dangerous ingredients is difficult—especially as a busy working mom. “Even simple things, like yesterday at the airport my lotion got taken from me because I didn’t pack appropriately,” she said. Later, she wondered how safe the lotion in her hotel room really was.
“Even going into a store to buy just about anything … you shouldn’t have to walk around aimlessly asking ‘Is this okay? Is this not okay?’” she added. “Everybody should have the right to healthy products.”
The Kardashian-Jenners also have a professional interest in the beauty industry: Sisters Kylie and Kim both have existing cosmetic lines, which have been “checked by the EWG and they score well,” said& Kourtney. In fact, Kourtney and Kylie released a joint line of eye shadows and lip colors yesterday afternoon, soon after the Congressional briefing.
“I think it would be nice if there were laws to regulate cosmetics so that the people running these businesses and these companies can have some standard of what to use,” Kardashian said in the briefing. “Right now it’s like a guessing game.”
The FDA already reviews the chemicals in other types of everyday products, including preservatives in processed foods, pesticide residues on produce, and more recently, ingredients in cleaning products. “Clearly, Congress understands that long-term exposure to unregulated chemicals can increase the risk of some very serious health problems,” Faber tells& Health& in an interview today.
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There are also short-term risks to think about, he adds: In recent years, consumers have complained about hair loss, rashes, chemical burns, and severe allergic reactions to various hair, skin, and makeup products. “Those risks seem to be growing as more and more cosmetics are imported from outside the United States,” Faber says.
Faber hopes that Kardashian’s involvement will give some momentum to the proposed Senate bill, and to EWG’s accompanying #BeautyMadeBetter campaign.
“While not every senator may watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I’m sure that many House and Senate staffers are loyal viewers,” he says. “And I think that Kourtney, in particular, is recognized as someone who has really done her homework and has been committed to green products—including green beauty products—for many years."