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How do you make cosmetics safer?

I read a couple of articles recently about pressure on governments to make cosmetic products more safe.  This article points out that there are “toxins” found in even ‘safer’ cosmetic products.  Then of course, there are calls for the US government to pass a Safe Cosmetics law with hearings currently going on and in the EU they are going to make cosmetics safer for infants.

But I wonder, how are they going to do that?

In the EU, they say that companies are supposed to “reduce health risks due to exposure.”  I just don’t see how that can be done.

To be able to reduce a risk, you have to be able to measure a risk.  And if cosmetic companies are already required to produce safe products, how can they make them safer?

If you take out all the “toxins” from a cosmetic, how do you prove that it is now safer?

Making things safer

I can understand how to make a product like a car safer.  You see how many people die or are injured in car accidents, you make a change to the car, and then determine whether less people die or are injured.  Simple.

A similar thing could be done to make children’s toys safer.  You see how many children are injured or die from a toy, make some changes and then determine whether the incidence of injury/death goes down.

With food you can measure incidences of food poisoning or sickness.

With medicine you can measure incidences of disease or negative side effects.

But how are companies supposed to demonstrate their safe products are made safer?

I don’t really have any answers.  If cosmetics can not be proven to be harmful, it just makes no sense to me how you can make them less harmful.  Perhaps one of you could enlighten.

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Mark Fuller 03/27/2012, 6:49 am
  • Mark Fuller 03/26/2012, 11:37 am

    Maybe I am totally off base here and I will get rightfully bashed, but in some respects I am opposed to these rigorous Safety initiatives.

    Here is my paradigm. Much like many people, my first car was a beater. It was a 1971 Plymouth Duster. It had lap seatbelts up front and honestly I don’t believe that I ever dug the back seatbelts out from under the back seat. It had zero airbags, ABS or other such safety features. Conversely it went for an original price in 1971 of $1375 which in 2012 dollars is $7,729.30. It had a green footprint much lower than todays cars. Nobody died and it served me well for HS and College (7 years and I bought it used).

    Now-A-Days a similar market placed model would go for close to $17,000 and it has a larger footprint.

    Where is the breaking point? How much administrative and safety costs do we need to add to a vehicle. I see now that they are proposing making rear view cameras (additional 1500 minimum) standard to cars in 2014.

    Let’s apply this paradigm to Cosmetics. Where is the breaking point? Keep in mind, that I am the first to refuse a job if the common sense Chemistry or Regulatory concern makes it dangerous. Just this week I turned away a 45% Glycolic Acid product that would not have been RX and a Spray Sunscreen for babies.

    • Perry 03/26/2012, 12:43 pm

      I would caution against taking anecdotal evidence or the results of any specific event as generally applicable. That you were never injured in your car despite the lack of modern safety equipment could merely have been good luck.

      The point about safety features in cars is that there was some specific way to measure whether you made the car safer or not. You can simply look at the rate of car deaths and injuries before a safety feature, then look at the same statistic after the implementation of the safety feature. Then, and only then, can you say whether you made the car more safe.

      Interestingly, some have suggested safety features can actually increase the rate of injury and death because it causes people to drive less safely.

      But my point is, you need to know what the current rate of danger of a product is before you can make any changes that will make it safer.

      So, how do we measure the current danger related to cosmetic exposure? I do not know since there is no evidence that cosmetics will cause any harm.

      • Mark Fuller 03/26/2012, 1:01 pm

        I think it is best to be prepared though. Our Legislators are unfortunately reactive. Wait for the first lead based incident from an incipient from China and watch the fur fly.

        I meant that there has to be a balance between safety and economy.

        • Perry 03/26/2012, 1:02 pm

          You’ve got that right.

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