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Do Your Cosmetics Contain Chemicals Known to Cause Cancer?

The California Department of Public Health unveils new website that offers consumers information on cosmetic products.

Screenshot of the California Safe Cosmetics Program website. Graphic credit: http://www.safecosmeticsact.org
Screenshot of the California Safe Cosmetics Program website. Graphic credit: http://www.safecosmeticsact.org
by Christa Bigue

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) unveiled a searchable website that allows the public to learn whether cosmetic products — from lipstick and nail polish to shaving cream and deodorant — have been reported to contain any ingredients known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.

“This website is a unique, searchable database that lets consumers make informed decisions about cosmetic use,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director and state health officer.

Visitors to the website will be able to search the California Safe Cosmetics Program (CSCP) Product Database by product name, company name or chemical ingredient. 

The term "cosmetics" is defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as all non-soap products applied to the body for the purpose of cleansing, beautifying, altering appearance, or promoting attractiveness. Soaps that claim cosmetic enhancement such as softening, moisturizing, or deodorizing are also covered under the Act. 

As of November 2013, approximately 475 companies had submitted product information on roughly 30,000 products to CDPH’s California Safe Cosmetics Program. The website also includes educational information to help users learn how exposure to chemicals can affect their health and what is known about specific chemicals.

“Inclusion in this website means a product contains a chemical that has been identified as a known or suspected carcinogen or reproductive toxin by one of the authoritative bodies named in the Safe Cosmetics Act such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer or the National Toxicology Program,’’ said Dr. Chapman. “It does not mean that the cosmetic product itself has been shown to cause cancer, but since most products are not extensively tested for safety, providing information on chemical components will allow consumers to make more informed choices."

The CSCP created this website to make information reported by cosmetics companies under the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005 publically available. The Act requires cosmetics companies to report to the California Safe Cosmetics Program if their products are sold in California, the company has more than $1 million per year in aggregate cosmetic sales, and products containing any chemical ingredient that has been found to cause cancer or reproductive harm.

Product reporting is required regardless of the amount of the reportable chemical in the product. Inclusion of a product in the reporting database does not necessarily mean the product has been shown to cause harm.

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