Cosmetic Warnings Mulled by FDA
DAVID GOLDSTEIN / Knight Ridder Newspapers 12mar2005
FDA considers labels for personal-care products
18 of 7,500 common cosmetics and toiletries had had all their
ingredients fully tested for safety. . . .
WASHINGTON — Imagine reaching for a tube of lipstick or a can of shaving cream and finding this label: "Warning — The safety of this product has not been determined."
Many popular cosmetics and personal-care products could bear such warnings if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decides the products need the warnings. The agency would act if it determines that the ingredients haven't been adequately tested to assure their safety. It's working to decide that.
Last month, the FDA informed the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, a Washington-based trade group, that manufacturers of untested products may have to add the warning.
There's no hard evidence of any health impact from long-term, low-dose exposure to the kinds of chemicals in cosmetics, said Lauren Sucher, a spokeswoman for the Environmental Working group, a private nonprofit research center.
Some ingredients in cosmetics, such as methylpentan-2-one, found in nail polish, haven't been tested. Others, including triethanolamine, used in skin scrubs, are among the chemicals that researchers fear might cause cancer.
A study last year by the Environmental Working Group found that only 18 of 7,500 common cosmetics and toiletries had had all their ingredients fully tested for safety.
"So we're talking about over 99 percent that have never been fully assessed for safety," Sucher said. "Companies often do tests of short-term acute exposure to see whether their products make eyes water or skin itch," she said. "Often, however, they're not looking at whether they might cause cancer or birth defects that are long term and don't affect the profitability of their products."
Eric Kraus, the vice president for communications at The Gillette Co., in Boston, which makes shaving creams and other personal-care products, said: “Gillette products undergo rigorous testing, based on the best available scientific information, to assure that they are safe for use and for our employees to make. For us, this should not be an issue.”
There's no federal requirement that the ingredients in such products be tested for safety. But federal law requires that cosmetics with unassessed ingredients include an FDA warning label informing consumers that "the safety of this product has not been determined." Until now, the FDA has relied on the cosmetics industry to police its products.
The FDA declined to comment for this article because it's reviewing a petition by the Environmental Working Group seeking recalls or warning labels on a variety of personal-care products.
The FDA doesn't assess the safety of cosmetics and toiletries before they reach the market, as it does with drugs. The cosmetics industry does its own evaluations through an independent panel of experts whom it appoints. Representatives of the FDA and the Consumer Federation of America, an alliance of public interest groups, attend those sessions.
The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, which created the review panel, responded positively to the FDA's letter suggesting stronger federal oversight of its products.
"Even an industry with an exemplary safety record such as ours functions best with a tough cop on the beat and we welcome FDA's action," Ed Kavanaugh, the association president, said in a prepared statement.
But Irene Malbin, the association's vice president for public affairs, called the Environmental Working Group's "Skin Deep" study "completely wrong." She said, for example, that there were no known cancer-causing ingredients in cosmetics, although they might be present — with no objections from the FDA — in such products as shampoos and hair dyes.
source: http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/nation/11117085.htm 17mar2005