It’s time for real chemical safety regulation

line drawing of woman in bathroom, poison flags coming out of all the products there

Photo credit: Story of Stuff

The first time I looked up the toxicity of my makeup, I was horrified. I had heard about the Environmental Working Group‘s cosmetic database, Skin Deep, and proceeded to type in the various products I put on my face most days. Much to my dismay, most of them were categorized as “moderate” to “high” hazard, and almost all had limited data confirming the safety of the chemicals used in them. Honestly, I was paralyzed. What was I supposed to do? What would it take to switch out all my products with similar non-toxic ones? Did these exist? Could I afford all these non-toxic products? I obsessed about my personal choices over the next few days, completely overwhelmed, when it clicked: wait, why is it cool for anyone to sell me poison? 

The reality is, the vast majority of people don’t have the education, the time, or the money to look through all the products in our homes, read the ingredients lists, know what they mean, and buy non-toxic replacements. This is a systemic issue: we need stronger chemical safety regulation.

Transcript to the Story of Cosmetics can be found here.

Thirty seven years after the last legislation regulating chemical toxicity, this May the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (NJ) introduced the Chemical Safety Improvement Act. Since the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976, only a small percentage of the chemicals registered for use in the United States have been tested for safety, and the chemical industry is largely unregulated here – meaning that known carcinogens and other toxins are routinely used in the products we’re using in our homes every day. The Chemical Safety Improvement Act is an opportunity to finally update chemical regulation in the United States, but as it stands it doesn’t do enough. So this week, MomsRising wrote an open letter to lawmakers urging them to establish clear protections for disproportionately affected communities, require that chemicals be shown safe to remain in use, and empower the Environmental Protection Agency to move quickly on the worst chemicals.

The lack of regulation around chemicals disproportionately affects women (who tend to use more cosmetics and do the lion’s share of housework, exposing them to the chemicals in cleaning products) and particularly low-income women, immigrant women, and women of color, who are working in factories and nail salons that expose them to toxic chemicals all day, are disproportionately using cleaning products for work as domestic employees and hotel workers, and are more likely to live near the factories where these toxic products are made.

We need to demand chemical regulation that puts public health above chemical industry profits. Take action now by signing onto MomsRising open letter and sending it to your Senator.

1bfea3e7449eff65a94e2e55a8b7acda-bpfullVeronica is an immigrant queer writer, domestic artist, and music video enthusiast.

New York, NY

Verónica Bayetti Flores has spent the last years of her life living and breathing reproductive justice. She has led national policy and movement building work on the intersections of immigrants' rights, health care access, young parenthood, and LGBTQ liberation, and has worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, and demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color. In 2008 Verónica obtained her Master’s degree in the Sexuality and Health program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She loves cooking, making art, listening to music, and thinking about the ways art forms traditionally seen as feminine are valued and devalued. In addition to writing for Feministing, she is currently spending most of her time doing policy work to reduce the harms of LGBTQ youth of color's interactions with the police and making sure abortion care is accessible to all regardless of their income.

Verónica is a queer immigrant writer, activist, and rabble-rouser.

Read more about Verónica

Join the Conversation