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Lawmakers Want FDA to Regulate Cosmetics

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
The cosmetics industry has been fighting a bill introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky that would regulate ingredients in products.

Despite all of its work, the council is still not satisfied with an alternative, more industry-friendly bill that was introduced Monday by Democratic Reps. John Dingell (Mich.) and Frank Pallone, whose district includes New Brunswick, N.J., home to Johnson & Johnson, one of the industry’s biggest players.

So the council has turned to Rep. Leonard Lance, an obscure New Jersey Republican who represents the neighboring district, to introduce yet another alternative modeled after the council’s proposal.

Lobbyists expect Lance to drop his version in the coming weeks, but an office spokesman declined to discuss timing or the degree of industry input in his bill.

The industry-backed bill would require the FDA to investigate safety concerns only when petitioned by outside parties. It would, however, require companies to report facilities, product ingredients and adverse events, according to a summary the council provided to Roll Call.

Unlike the Pallone and Schakowsky proposals, it would not levy a fee on cosmetics companies to help fund the FDA’s expanded activities. Council lobbyists argue that they have backed increased funding for the agency’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors since 2006 and that is enough.

One of the three proposals will likely be added to the reauthorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act program, a must-pass bill that helps fund the FDA and expires in September.

Safety advocates dismiss the council’s approach, arguing that it would leave the FDA’s cosmetics office underfunded and at the mercy of the industry. Today, the only other body monitoring the ingredients used in cosmetics, the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review, is housed in the same 17th Street Northwest building as the trade association. The FDA has no authority to enforce CIR recommendations.

“I think there has been undue influence on the Office of Cosmetics and Colors from the cosmetics industry since they started regulating cosmetics 70 years ago,” said Janet Nudelman, the policy director of the Breast Cancer Fund, which sponsors the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of 150 organizations representing consumers, salon workers and environmentalists. “It’s such an incestuous relationship.”

Nudelman’s group paid the Raben Group $120,000 in 2011 to handle its legislative agenda, including efforts to promote the Schakowsky measure.

In 2006, the FDA concluded that hydroquinone, a chemical found in skin-lightening products, might act as a carcinogen and recommended it be removed from a list of safe ingredients, but it still has not acted on the recommendation, Nudelman noted. In December, the agency reported that the amount of lead found in hundreds of lipsticks was safe — a finding the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics refutes.

The industry is pushing especially hard for a provision that would bar states from pre-empting national regulations. Safety advocates argue that would jeopardize more aggressive state laws such as the one California passed in 2005 that allowed the state’s attorney general to sue Brazilian Blowout, a North Hollywood-based company whose hair-straightening product emits formaldehyde gas.

A spokesman for the cosmetics council noted that formaldehyde is safely used as a preservative in many products such as shampoo.

“Their approach is basically not based on a scientific review of those ingredients. It is based on the conclusion that if there are questions raised about an ingredient, it should be taken out,” Hurson said. “We just fundamentally disagree with that.”

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