Just weeks after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to consumers not to use certain talc-containing cosmetics sold by tween retailer Claire’s because they were found to contain cancer-causing asbestos, a bill was introduced in Congress designed to protect consumers from potentially dangerous chemicals found in everyday face and body beauty products.
The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would give the FDA more authority to regulate what chemicals and other ingredients companies put in their cosmetics. “Companies have a lot of clout and I think they have to be mobilized,” she said. “What you put onto your skin seeps into your body – they’re poisons.”
The additional oversight would require companies to report to the FDA any customer complaints. The agency would also have the authority to recall products it deemed in violation of safety standards, and be allowed to review five chemicals each year to assess their safety.
Supporters, which include industry leaders like L’Oreal, Revlon and Estee Lauder, say the plan is long overdue, especially since the United States has only banned 11 chemicals – and not a single one in almost 30 years. The European Union, by comparison, has banned or tightly restricted about 1,500 chemicals.
Beautycounter CEO Gregg Renfrew says consumers deserve more transparency from cosmetics companies. “I think consumers want to know what’s in their products; they want to know, are these ingredients safe for their health? They want complete and utter transparency, and that is forcing the entire industry to change,” he said.
Some chemicals often found in cosmetics that pose health risks include retinol, an ingredient in some sunscreens and anti-aging products, which has been linked to skin tumors; formaldehyde, a possible carcinogen used as a preservative used in some shampoos and body washes; and parabens, a preservative used in some face cleansers, which has been shown to disrupt hormones.
Talc also poses risks as it can be contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos. Last year, 22 women sued Johnson & Johnson alleging its Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder was contaminated with asbestos and other impurities, which caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The jury found in favor of the women, hitting Johnson & Johnson with a staggering $4.69 billion in damages.