Before digging into how Europe manages the ingredients used to manufacture cosmetic products, it becomes necessary to understand why this is so important. Personal care products, otherwise known as beauty products or cosmetic products, are known to contain over 10,500 chemical ingredients. Many of these ingredients are toxic in nature. Toxins are poisons and when used over long periods of time, can cause serious damage to one’s health. Women use an average of over 5 pounds of lotions and creams annually. The skin is the largest organ of the body and is very porous, allowing over 70% of what is applied to the skin to seep into our bodies and into our bloodstream. Through clinical studies, it has been proven that the very same toxins found in a mother’s blood have been found in the umbilical cord of the fetus. Many of these toxic (poison) ingredients are carcinogenic and can be linked to cancer as well as respiratory problems in infants, birth defects, liver and kidney disease, etc.
Perhaps now it is clear as to why it is so important to know what is being done around the world to monitor what goes into the manufacture of cosmetic products and why it should be so very important for consumers to use only certified organic and/or natural beauty products.
Europe, Asia, and Oceania have taken major steps in controlling the ingredients used in beauty products. In this article the focus will be on Europe, while future articles will tackle how other parts of the world address this issue. Having said that, one might ask what about the US? Unfortunately, with the cosmetic business being such a large (50 billion) and extremely profitable business, the US cosmetic companies employ lobbyists in Washington to prevent changes in the laws regulating the industry. Shocking as it might seem, the Cosmetic Industry is self-regulated. It can determine what it wants to bring to market without any pre-testing by any government or private agencies.
Currently Europe has one Government authority that controls the ingredients of beauty products, the European Union (EU). However, there are private institutions operating in five countries that provide independent laboratory testing to the many cosmetic companies operating throughout Europe. These independent organizations use the authority of the EU to manage the process, but in some cases, go beyond the regulations required by the EU to determine and qualify products as certified organic and/or natural beauty products. These organizations are:
-BDIH operating out of Germany;
-ECOCERT & COSMEBIO from France;
-SOIL ASSOCIATION from the UK;
-ICEA from Italy;
-BIOFORUM from Belgium
These six organizations combined also make up what is known as the COSMOS-standard. The COSMOS-standard has not yet achieved legal status, but that will be delved into later in this article. At this juncture, let’s look at how the EU manages this process.
What is the European Union? What are its aims and results? How does it work? In summary, the answers to these questions are:
-27 democratic countries participate in the EU economically and politically;
-498 million citizens in these 27 countries look to the EU for safe, consumable products, including beauty products;
-It’s results in the beauty category provide for not just safer products, but a greener environment as well;
-It works because each country sets up bodies to adopt and manage the EU’s legislation.
The COSMOS-standard represents the European cosmetic organic standards working group. It is made up of the previously mentioned organizations. It is expected to be legalized by April, 2010 by the pronouncement of the Belgian Royal Decree. Excerpts of the main objectives of the COSMOS- standards and taken directly from their final document dated January, 2010, can be summed up as follows:
“Establishing a ‘sustainable development’ that would reconcile economic progress, social
responsibility and maintain the natural balance of the planet is a project in which the cosmetics
sector is willing to be fully involved… the organic and natural cosmetics sector clearly shows its ambition to go further in setting a new standard for organic and natural cosmetics.”
The following represents a summary of a set of simple rules that will be used to manage the organic and natural beauty industry. The main focus is on prevention and safety in all segments of the manufacturing process, that is, from raw materials to market ready final products.
The rules will focus on human health through:
-Organic agriculture and natural resources always with respect for the environment;
-A manufacturing process that is environmentally clean while, at the same time, utilizing and expanding a more green philosophy that ultimately will create a higher standard for organic and natural beauty products.
The six organizations making up the COSMOS-standard, namely BDIH, ECOCERT & COSMEBIO, SOIL ASSOCIATION, ICEA, and BIOFORUM, each have their own set of standards for certifying organic and/or natural beauty products. It would take a book to delineate each agencies processes. Suffice it to say that Europe has taken a lead position on this subject through the EU and continues to improve its status by moving forward with the COSMOS-standard. One of the results of the EU’s legislation is that they have already banned over 1100 chemical ingredients used in the manufacture of beauty products, while the US has banned a mere 10.
The US, with its lack of leadership in this industry, has left the consumer vulnerable to the poisons we already know cause harm to pregnant mothers, their babies, and to the millions of consumers that have used these toxins for decades. Over time, with many countries around the world coming together to prohibit these toxic ingredients from being used in beauty products, hopefully the US will change current legislation and demand pre-testing of beauty products before they are released to the public. Further, hopefully the US will also permit independent agencies to test products to qualify them to be labeled as certified organic and/or natural beauty products. In the meantime, when shopping for certified products, simply look for the logos of the aforementioned companies out of Europe. In doing so, you will be assured of using safe, non-toxic beauty products.