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.
Veronica is an immigrant queer writer, domestic artist, and music video enthusiast.