If I told you that health complaints made to the Food and Drug Administration have reached an all-time high, I bet you’d think I was talking about side effects of drugs.
But I’m not — this giant upsurge in adverse reaction reports is caused by cosmetics, a category that isn’t just made up of makeup, but also includes hair and skin products, deodorant, fragrances, and many other products that fill your bathroom.
And since such reports are totally voluntary, you can just imagine how many more there might be if they were mandatory.
That’s why you need to be just as fussy about anything that touches your skin and hair as you would be about something that you put inside your body.
Because the FDA has even less control over cosmetics than it does over food and drugs.
The last time the FDA did anything related to dangerous cosmetic products was back when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, bread cost nine cents, and you could fill your gas tank for around a buck.
That was in 1938!
And they probably wouldn’t have even passed that law, called the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, if not for an investigative book called American Chamber of Horrors, which came out three years prior.
But guess what? A lot of the cosmetics available today could still go into a chamber of horrors!
Researchers at Northwestern University scoured the FDA’s adverse-event reporting data for 12 years, going back to 2004. Two years ago, 706 adverse reaction reports were sent in. But last year’s tally alone was 1,591.
That, however, is just a drop in the complaint bucket, because the researchers found that manufacturers of cosmetic products can receive health complaints up and down the wazoo and keep them all a deep, dark secret if they feel like it.
One company, headed up by a firm called Guthy/Renker that specializes in making infomercials, has received 21,000 complaints directly from consumers over the Chaz Dean WEN line of hair products. And it has no obligation to turn a single one of those complaints over to the FDA.
But so many women have complained about extreme hair loss, hair breakage, itching, and rashes after using the products that the FDA actually started an investigation — and you know how seldom that happens!
But whatever the agency finds out, it has no authority to do much of anything. In fact, companies don’t even need the FDA’s approval to mix up a batch of something and start selling it for us to apply to our skin or scalps.
Over a year ago, the Environmental Working Group did its own investigation into the WEN line and discovered that despite the fact its products appear to be totally natural, they contain some very unnatural-sounding ingredients!
One is Hydroxycitronellal, a fragrance “component” that the group said was “strongly linked” to allergic reactions. Another is the tongue-twister Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, which the European Union has deemed “unsafe” for use in personal care products, according to the EWG.
Of course, sometimes the result of using a product can go way beyond allergic reactions and hair loss.
I recently told you about several jury verdicts that awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to women who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson baby powder with talc for personal hygiene. And there are thousands more such cases yet to be heard.
Seriously, what could seem safer than baby powder?
Right now, the only possibility of any improvement may be coming from a bipartisan bill called the Personal Care Products Safety Act. The bill would, among other things, force the FDA to review at least five products a year, demand that any adverse event reports a company receives be sent to the FDA, and register ingredients with the agency.
But the bill was introduced over two years ago, with the latest action being a hearing held by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions last September!
So, once again, for the foreseeable future anyway, it looks like we’re going to have to watch out for ourselves.
And one way to do that is to check out the EWG’s database of cosmetic ingredients at www.ewg.org/skindeep/ — where you can easily look up a product to find out what’s really in it.
“More health problems reported from cosmetic products” Victoria Knight, June 26, 2017, CNN, cnn.com