Cancer-Free Label Act

Floor Speech

By:  Ted Deutch
Date: July 25, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DEUTCH. Mr. Speaker, exposure to cancer-causing agents increases every American's risk of cancer, and they are found in everyday products and in the environment.

Since only 5% of cancer is caused by genetic factors, people can reduce their risk of getting cancer by the other 95% of causes by reducing their exposure to carcinogens.

We all know that we can reduce our risk of getting cancer by wearing sunscreen, quitting smoking, and steering clear of asbestos. But what about everyday products? Which makeup has carcinogens? Which pesticides? Which air fresheners, carpet cleaners, flea collars, and yes, food items, increase your family's risk of cancer? Which baby shampoos?

The reality is consumers do not know. Even if our constituents memorized the list of known and probable carcinogens, many substances in consumer products remain hidden. Words like ``fragrance'' and ``artificial flavoring'' are used in place of specific ingredients to protect companies' trade secrets, and they should. But there is no denying that this protection makes it harder for consumers to make fully informed choices.

And even if known carcinogens were not part of a product's ingredient list, certain manufacturing or storage practices can result in the introduction of carcinogens into a product, which then can pass into your body.

Today, I am introducing legislation called the ``Cancer-Free Label Act.'' Under this bill, manufacturers who would like to market their products as being completely free of all known carcinogens would be allowed to seek a ``cancer-free'' label. By submitting a confidential application to be evaluated by the agency that regulates their specific product, a manufacturer could provide consumers assurance that the product is free of known carcinogens without having to divulge valuable trade secrets. The voluntary application would protect manufacturers' hard-earned intellectual property and could not be used by any agency of government for any reason other than determining the product's ``cancer-free'' status.

The application would simply include a full list of substances and a demonstrated adherence to best carcinogen-avoidance practices in manufacture, storage, and transportation. In addition, this program would not mandate any new bureaucracy to evaluate carcinogens; it simply creates a process for agencies to compare ingredients lists against existing government lists of known and probable carcinogens.

Unlike other well-intentioned efforts to get carcinogens out of consumer products, this legislation would not rely on mandates or bans. If a manufacturer does not choose to apply, there is no penalty. The labeling program is 100% voluntary. It would simply harness the power of the free market, enabling consumers to choose safer products for themselves and their families. We all remember the most recent example of this--it was consumer selection, not government intervention, that got BPA out of baby products.

I urge my colleagues to pass this market-driven legislation and give consumers and families across America the power to opt-out of cancer-causing substances in everyday products.