Chronic under-regulation

Readable Research | By Abby Ferla |

A study done at the University of Southern California gets media attention for finding that both hair colorists and women who dye their hair have higher risks of developing bladder cancer than does the general female population.

A month later, an article in the USC Wire reports that the European Union and Commission took note of the study and conducted their own research, which supported the original conclusions. In response, the EU has taken steps to regulate hair dye chemicals. However, as the Wire writes, “in the United States, the FDA does not have the authority to report cosmetic-related injuries or require manufacturers to file data on the ingredients of their products.”


California passes a bill that requires manufacturers to report all known carcinogens in their products to the state, which will then publicize the information and regulate these products accordingly. One California spokesperson says that the legislation is “the strongest bill in the nation to protect cosmetic consumers.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Manufacturers said that the law would impose California-specific rules on an international industry and that further regulation of cosmetics should be handled at the federal level.”


The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics releases the results of a study in which 61 percent of 33 lipsticks tested contained lead in levels six times higher than FDA standards for candy.

According to the Associated Press, an FDA spokesperson responds that periodic allegations about lead in lipstick have not been supported by FDA findings but that the agency will look into the matter.

Lipstick makers maintain that their products are safe. Cosmetic industry groups say consumers risk more lead exposure in their everyday life than they do from lipstick use.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) write a letter to the FDA urging it to research lipstick and issue voluntary guidelines for permissible levels. Kerry says, “There has been a continuous flow of unnerving news in recent months about the FDA’s clear lack of oversight and inspection. Washington is gambling with our health, whether we are aware of it or not. It’s time for the FDA to start taking this responsibility more seriously.”

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