Sunday, July 25, 2010

The "Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010"

Well, here we go again.

U.S. House Representatives Schakowsky, Markey, and Baldwin introduced a draft of the "Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010" (H.R. 5786) last week. The bill seeks to amend title VI of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to ensure that cosmetics are safe.

Sounds good, right? I mean, we can all agree that having safe cosmetics is a wonderful thing, yes?

Well, of course. Problem is, this bill contains so many reporting and testing requirements that it would be virtually impossible for small business owners (like yours truly) to comply.

Like most legislation, it is well-meaning. And, like most legislation, it could cause tremendous unintentional harm, especially to small businesses, which, ironically, legislators are always claiming to want to protect. (Remember what happened when the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) passed? Many small businesses that made things like toys and clothes for children shut down because they simply could not comply with the new laws.)

And this is not the first bill like this to be floated in the cosmetics industry. The "Colorado Safe Personal Care Products Act" (House Bill 1248) was successfully slapped down in March 2010. As I understand it, though, the FDA Globalization Act of 2009 (H.R. 759) is still on the table.

H.R. 5786 is not a done deal - it still needs to be voted through to become law. Now is the time to write to your legislators. If you own a small business making bath and body products (or if you like to buy bath and body products from small businesses), please read the bill, find out who your Representative is, and voice your concerns.

I emailed my U.S. House Representative today. I'll share my letter here to give you an idea of what to maybe say if you want to write a letter, too. But, please, tailor your letter to make it your own, m'kay?

Here's what I wrote:

Dear Congressman ________ ,

I am writing to express my concerns about H.R. 5786, the “Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010.” I make soaps, and I sell them online and at local craft shows. I would also like to eventually perhaps make and sell lotions, lip balms, etc. I sell my products not only for the income, but also because I want to share with others the happiness that my craft brings me. My little business is a source of joy and pride, and customers love to have the freedom to buy handmade bath and body products from artisans like myself.

My products are made with high-quality bath-and-body-approved ingredients bought from reputable suppliers. I would be uncomfortable using anything less than safe, approved ingredients not only for safety reasons but because I also want to offer my customers a superior product. I take pride in what I do, and I would never willingly jeopardize my customers’ health or satisfaction.

One big problem with this bill is that there are no small business exemptions. I run my business out of my home, by myself. I don’t have a staff helping me – I do it all. This bill has reporting and testing requirements that would hamstring my ability to run my business. These requirements would be virtually impossible for me to comply with. For one thing, I make small batches – a little bit of this, a little bit of that. If I have to submit a new safety and ingredient affidavit for every single product I make, my ability to change formulations based on the season or customer requests would be hindered. I am afraid that H.R. 5786 would burden me with a landslide of paperwork, making it a bureaucratic nightmare to run my small, home-based business. I am also concerned that the passage of H.R. 5786 could put me – and many small business owners like me – out of business entirely.

This bill is unnecessary. The cosmetic industry already requires that manufacturers produce safe cosmetics and to fully label them with ingredients and contact information.

Please don’t support this legislation, Congressman _______ . It is well-intentioned but written in such a way that I won’t be able to stay in business because I will not be able to fulfill its requirements. Please protect my small business, and please protect the businesses of others like me.

Thank you for your time.

Jennifer Rose
Wonder Turtle Soaps

If you want more inspiration on what sort of letter to write and wish to read more about H.R. 5786, check out Anne-Marie's Soap Queen blog post. (Anne-Marie's post helped me greatly when I was composing my letter.) Also check out these blog posts by the Handcrafted Soapmaker's Guild and Donna Maria's Indie Business Blog for more info. These are just a few of the blog posts I've run across about this proposed legislation - there are lots more out there, as the indie cosmetics industry is all atwitter (or is it atweeter?).

Let's make some noise, everybody!