WASHINGTON — With the new Republican Congress up and running, the cosmetics industry has some hope of regulatory relief. Such was the assessment of Edward Kavanaugh, president of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, during a recent interview in his Washington office.
Of all of the issues now on the organization’s agenda, Kavanaugh said easing the Delaney Clause, which prevents the sale of any chemical that could be a carcinogen, probably has the best chance of passing “in the next couple of years.”
Kavanaugh said the beauty industry’s other challenges in the coming year, both inside and outside of Congress, include:
Lobbying Congress to adopt uniform regulations for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as alcohol, and for recycled content in packaging.
Negotiating with South Korea and China to relax trade restrictions in those emerging markets.
Heading off the anti-fragrance movement.
Convincing the Food and Drug Administration to hold off on implementing a consumer complaint hotline for personal care products.
When the Delaney Clause became law in the late 1950s, about 100 color agents were legal cosmetic ingredients, Kavanaugh said, adding that today the figure has dwindled to about 40.
The FDA has banned colorings that it considers completely safe if properly used because they did not meet the “zero-tolerance” standard of the Delaney Clause. That provision prevents, for example, the use of a small amount of an ingredient in a topical product for humans if it caused cancer when ingested in large amounts by laboratory animals.
While the Delaney Clause was not mentioned specifically in the Republicans’ Contract With America, Kavanaugh said it is the type of unnecessarily burdensome regulation that the new majority has vowed to eliminate.
Kavanaugh said the Republican Congress is also very likely to kill any proposals for an FDA “user fee,” which crops up frequently as an option when Congress is trying to balance the budget. “A user fee is just a tax like any other tax,” he said, noting that the Republicans claim to oppose new taxes.
Progress may also be made this year in adopting a uniform national standard for the use of VOC’s, such as alcohol, in consumer products. Noting the irony that the CTFA is actually pushing for a new federal regulation, Kavanaugh explained that some states are passing clean air laws, each of which would require a different reformulation of consumer products such as perfume and hairspray.
The CTFA has submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency a model regulation with recommended allowable levels of VOCs for many personal products.
“They’ve been very receptive,” Kavanaugh said. “I hope they’ll adopt the model in the next couple of months.”
The CTFA also would like to see a uniform national standard for recycled content in packaging to override individual state initiatives, but Kavanaugh sees no federal remedy for the problem in the foreseeable future.
Some Congressional conservatives strongly oppose the idea because, although it would help some businesses, a federal recycling regulation could be viewed as impinging on the right of states to govern themselves, Kavanaugh said. He noted that a national recycling standard almost passed toward the end of the Reagan Administration, but it was shot down by states-rights advocates.
“It probably won’t happen until industries are clearly hurt, until one company is making six packages for the same product,” Kavanaugh said.
Looking overseas, the CTFA is working to break down trade barriers in South Korea, which is considering requiring each product coming into the country to be safety-tested. This move would effectively ban all imports of such products, thereby protecting the country’s own emerging industry, Kavanaugh said.
As evidenced by Estée Lauder Cos.’ expansion there, Korea has become a hot new market, and Kavanaugh said a CTFA delegation is planning to visit the country in April to discuss a range of trade problems.
The CTFA is also advising China as it establishes a regulatory structure for personal care products, and Kavanaugh said the group is working with the European Union as it develops a continent-wide nomenclature for consumer-product labeling.
Another hot-button issue for Kavanaugh this year is the growing anti-fragrance movement, led by people with “multiple-chemical sensitivity,” a physical reaction against airborne chemicals. In some areas, these people have initiated policies banning public wearing of all scented personal care products, from perfumes to hand lotions.
The latest battle is being waged at the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work, which banned the wearing of fragrances after a receptionist complained of multiple-chemical sensitivity.
Earlier this month, Kavanaugh and Thomas Donagan, CTFA’s general counsel, visited the university’s general counsel, Mark B. Rotenberg. The CTFA representatives said Rotenberg strongly opposes the school’s policy.
Rotenberg, reached later, said, “To the extent that [not wearing fragrance] is voluntary, that’s fine, but the university has no policy of ejecting people.”
He confirmed that he has promised Kavanaugh to work with the School of Social Work to formulate a policy that Kavanaugh said will be “a lot more palatable and in no way will be a ban. They’ll never ask anybody to wash up or leave.”
Prior to the meeting, Kavanaugh said the CTFA would consider litigation if the school did not rescind its anti-fragrance policy. “Obviously it’s important to us because of all the publicity it’s getting, and it’s the first time anyone has actually banned [fragrances],” he said.
If the policy were allowed to stand, it would be setting a precedent for other institutions or municipalities, he added. “This is a problem that is not going away and is potentially a serious problem for the industry.”
While multiple-chemical sensitivity sufferers also complain of chemicals in paints and other products, Kavanaugh claimed “they choose to target our industry because it’s sexy.”
Another potential problem for the personal products industry, a consumer information phone line proposed by the FDA, seems to be on hold for the moment. Late last year, the FDA said it was considering establishing a toll-free phone number to collect information on health problems caused by consumer products.
But now, the FDA “is considering whether there are alternative approaches that might do a better job of providing that kind of information” on a more cost-effective basis, according to a spokesman.
The CTFA opposes the 800 number because, Kavanaugh contends, some consumers may see it as a sign that government watchdogs believe personal care products are unsafe. Animal rights activists may also use the line to unfairly implicate products made by companies such as Gillette that have refused to comply with the activists’ demands, Kavanaugh said.
The FDA is considering alternative methods of collecting data on consumer products, such as soliciting information from doctors, the spokesman said.
“This will be something we’ll have to think about for awhile,” he said.
A CTFA milestone is predicted for 1995: The Cosmetic Ingredient Review database is expected to be completed in May, Kavanaugh said. It will include about 6,000 ingredients, about half of which are approved for use in the U.S.
Members will be able to hook up to the database via computer, a program that started last spring, to find information on chemicals and their manufacturers, he added.
Finally, Kavanaugh said that the “Look Good, Feel Better” program, which teaches cosmetic techniques to cancer patients, reached 28,000 women last year, the largest participation rate in the program’s seven-year history.
Canada, Australia, New Zealand and England already have similar programs, and the German cosmetics association is slated to start one this year. — Fairchild News Service