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FDA Regulation of Cosmetics Nears Despite Industry Objections

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The average woman applies 12 beauty products to her body daily. For men, it’s six daily.

Yet few consumers know the chemicals that go into those everyday cosmetics.

“Shame on me,” said Bette-Lee Hanson, who was getting her hair done at a salon. “I’m not terribly cognizant of what’s in the products but probably I should be. But I’m not.”

As the list of chemicals in everyday beauty products has grown, U.S. oversight has been nonexistent, according to Janet Nudelman, spokeswoman for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition that advocates for safer cosmetics and hygiene products.

“The headlines over the years have really told the story of the problem of unsafe cosmetics,” Nudelman said. “The problem is that there is no one minding the store. There is no federal regulation or law that says companies have to make safe products.”

Nudelman said, however, that Americans had woken up to the problem. This summer Congress is expected to pass a bill allowing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate cosmetics.

The measure would require the labeling of all ingredients and the prohibiting of chemicals linked to cancer or reproductive problems.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who introduced the bill, said the measure would provide some protection to consumers.

“It would give the Food and Drug Administration -- for the first time -- the ability to recall products that have these dangerous products in them,” she told ABC News. “The $60 billion cosmetics industry is one of the least regulated that we have in the country. We don’t even know how many companies there are right now that are producing their products. We certainly don’t know what’s in them.”

Cosmetic agencies have spent $3.5 million lobbying against the measure, saying that it would curtail innovation and compromise trade secrets.

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, such chemicals as dioxane and formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, can be found in some shampoo. Lead can be found in lip products. Parabens, which have possible links to cancer, can be found in deodorant.

Some skin-lightening creams contain mercury, which has been linked to cancer. There’s also toluene, a headache-causing chemical, in nail polish; and some perfumes contain diethyl phthalate, which has been tied to allergies, hormone distress and dermatitis.

In February, a new study conducted by the FDA reportedly found that 400 lipsticks on the market tested positive for lead, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

The European Union has banned 1,200 of these types of chemicals but the U.S. has only banned 10.

“We’re exposed to toxic chemicals through a wide array of consumer products from the moment when [we] wake up in the morning to the moment when we go to bed at night,” Nudelman said. “The unsafe experience we’re being exposed to in cosmetics is really on the tip of the iceberg.”

She advised consumers to look for labels that had shorter lists of ingredients, and ingredients they could pronounce and recognize.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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