Response to NYT Opinion | Do You Know What's in Your Cosmetics?

Letter to the Editor, in response to RE: “Cosmetics Safety Needs a Makeover” Published in the NYT Sunday Review, by the Editorial Board, 10 February 2019.

Regulation is needed but is nothing if it’s not relevant. Too often policies are ignorant of scientific data and instead propose band-aid solutions. If Congress acts, it should consider the utility of the scientific method for its built-in accountability. Any attempt at regulating the consumer chemical industry should create incentives for companies to prioritize an open share of peer-reviewed, verifiable data on how chemicals behave physiologically, by themselves, or in the context of a product. The fact that more research needs to be done is implied in this call to actionable information.

Regulatory language should be loose enough to change as findings develop but not so loose as to be taken advantage of by marketing departments. Otherwise, capitalistic competition says companies will soon find loopholes in disclosure regulations and we’ll end up with a worse smokescreen of “truths” and chemical “data.” What’s needed is the introduction of real scientific rigor to R&D and marketing practices. Only with a commitment to scientific rigor—to an open share of credible, peer-reviewed data, and to the use of marketing claims backed by verifiable evidence—can we introduce higher, more relevant standards of accountability, credibility, and transparency. Toeing the line between protecting trade secrets and facilitating innovation will be difficult. But not prohibitively so. The health of self, kin, and planet matter too much to continue to turn a blind, albeit profitable, eye to real regulation.

A quick side note: There’s a bit of irony in an otherwise well-made point: We’re right to be skeptical of the motivations and findings of CIR, but we should be equally wary of the “advocacy” group EWG. Most chemists agree that EWG does more harm than good. Posing as an advocacy group, they only publish outsourced and unreviewed research, and then tailor their findings to further a mission of fear-mongering. They have little to no regard for “truth” that doesn’t drive site traffic to their petitions...and to their donation page.