With last week’s news that Johnson & Johnson had been ordered to pay over $110 million in damages to a 62-year-old woman who said that her ovarian cancer was directly linked to decades of using the brand’s talc-based products still in the public conscience, now’s as good a time as any for Senators Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins to introduce the Personal Care Products Safety Act, a new bill that would give the FDA more authority over applying safety rules to beauty products before they’re approved for the market.
As it stands, the FDA has very little involvement in regulating the cosmetics industry. The current law does not require any products or ingredients (apart from color additives) to be greenlit by the FDA before they can be sold to consumers; it’s up to whatever company is making and/or selling the goods to determine what’s safe and what isn’t.
“It is the responsibility of cosmetic manufacturers to ensure, before marketing their products, that the products are safe when used as directed in their label or under customary conditions of use,” a statement on the FDA website reads. The existing regulations prohibit only “adulterated or misbranded” products from being sold; even recalls of hazardous products or ingredients are “voluntary actions taken by manufacturers or distributors.” (What’s more, the safety guidelines currently in place have not been updated since 1938, the same year the Church of England accepted the theory of evolution.) Among other stipulations, the PCPSA would require the FDA to evaluate a minimum of five ingredients every year to determine their safety and “appropriate” use and give it the authority to order recalls based on its own safety assessments.
Since its introduction yesterday, the bill has already gained support from industry-leading companies like Revlon, Unilever, L’Oréal, and Estée Lauder. (You can read it in its entirety here.) “From shampoo to lotion, everyone — women, men, children — uses personal care products every day,” wrote Senator Feinstein on her website. “Despite the universal use of these products, none of their ingredients have been independently evaluated for safety. This puts consumers’ heath at risk and we urgently need to update the nearly 80-year-old safety rules.” So, what can you do? Well, not much, except make sure to mention it next time you call your senators to express your displeasure about those other 398,482,948 things.