The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has unveiled its Safe Cosmetics Program Product Database, a searchable Website to help consumers determine whether the cosmetic products they are using contain ingredients known to cause cancer or reproductive harm. Reportedly the first state-run public resource of its kind, the database was created to make information collected under the California Safe Cosmetics Act (CSCA) of  2005 publically available. CSCA requires each cosmetics company to report to the program if (i) its products are sold in California; (ii) the company has more than $1 million a year in aggregate cosmetic sales; and (iii) its products contain a chemical ingredient found to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive damage.

“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 Inter- national Agency for Research on Cancer or the National Toxicology Program,” said CDPH Director Ron 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 compo- nents will allow consumers to make more informed choices.”

Advocacy groups, including the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, applaud the database and say that it reveals a snapshot of “a Wild West industry where cosmetics companies can and are using a shocking array of unsafe and cancer-causing chemicals in seemingly innocent products.” According to Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Co-founder Janet Nudelman, “California’s database is one more tool for consumers to use to make safer choices about cosmetics. It will also keep the pressure on companies to reformulate products to remove chemicals linked to adverse health effects.”

Some 475 companies have submitted information on roughly 30,000 products so far, and chemicals in the database include phthalates, mercury and mercury compounds, toluene and formaldehyde, and other known toxicants. The Website also includes information to educate users as to how exposure to chemicals can affect their health and what is known about specific chemicals. See CDPH News Release, January 10, 2014; SFGate.com, January 13, 2014.