Once again, those who are trying to live a simple, clean life or make a decent living from traditional skills are threatened by the corporatist society they try to avoid. The current assault comes from Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Susan Collins, who have recently introduced S.1014: a bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.[PDF] Also referred to as the Personal Care Products Safety Act, this bill is supposed to ensure the safety of cosmetics for all consumers.
Under the pretext that some of the chemicals in personal care products are hazardous for the consumer’s health, this bill imposes user fees and paperwork that would put small artisanal soap and cosmetic makers out of business. And guess who is supporting the bill? Cosmetic giants like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Revlon, Estee Lauder, Unilever and L’Oreal have nothing to lose.
According to Senator Feinstein and the corporations that support S.1014, the Personal Care Products Safety Act is necessary to make the use of cosmetics safer. How? Not by banning hazardous ingredients like methylene glycol or propyl paraben, but rather by regulating them with FDA tests, warning labels, fees and recall authority.
Basically, the PCPSA makes it mandatory for all cosmetic manufacturers to register their business and make a statement allowing the FDA to inspect their facilities. Businesses that make more than $500,000 in annual gross revenue will also be required to pay registration fees. In addition, manufacturers will have to file annual ingredient statements, as well as extensively report side effects on a regular basis. More extensive labeling requirements are also part of the bill.
Senator Feinstein strongly argues that the new bill doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything and that industry user fees will be used to fund it. Others also argue that S.1014 will not affect homemade soap artisans because small producers are excluded from the new requirements. But most changes proposed by PCPSA apply to businesses that make more than $100,000 in gross annual revenue. This kind of revenue is not at all unusual for family businesses run from home. Deduct taxes from this number and you’ll realize that these families of three or more people are barely making a livable wage.
While current cosmetic giants will easily afford paying the proposed fees and making room for the required paperwork, small soap manufacturers will most likely run out of business. And you don’t have to be a soap artisan yourself to be affected by S.1014. Some people are dealing with skin sensitivities that don’t allow them to purchase most soaps on the market. Instead of going bankrupt on overly expensive suitable products, they buy natural, gentler homemade soap. If these small businesses fail, the communities they were part of will inevitably be affected as well.
Perhaps the most irritating issue with the Personal Care Products Safety Act is the fact that while it claims to make soaps and shampoos safer, it does absolutely nothing to ban the dangerous ingredients it complains about. If the safety of the consumer is what concerns the cosmetic giants backing the bill, then why don’t they stop using paraben in their products?
Suddenly, S.1014 looks more and more like a way to crush the small homemade soap businesses that actually make healthy products and therefore stand in the way of giant corporations and their revenue. The Handmade Cosmetic Alliance feels the same way. If you do too and you manufacture soap only from FDA-approved ingredients, then make your voice heard and contact elected representatives using this form. Don’t let others decide the future of your trade.