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FDA Creates Culture of Ignorance for Personal Care Products

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, June 19, 2008

WASHINGTON – Environmental Working Group (EWG) Vice President for Research Jane Houlihan issued the following statement today at a public meeting held by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), calling on the government to include public health, consumer, and environmental organizations in upcoming industry-regulator meetings. During the week of July 28, representatives from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia are scheduled to meet along with the cosmetics industry at what is known as the International Cooperation on Cosmetic Regulation (ICCR) forum, to discuss efforts to “remove regulatory obstacles” that could water down already lax U.S. regulations that allow an untold number of chemicals into products without sufficient safety testing.

“The cosmetics industry enjoys a largely unwatched and unregulated status in the U.S. that raises serious concerns for public health, and closed-door meetings between regulators and the industry may well widen these significant gaps, This process is inherently biased, conflicted, and unacceptable.

We request once again that the ICCR be opened to a broader group of stakeholders. We believe this is critical to ensuring that the publics’ interests are represented and that public health is fully protected in the decisions that are made.

While such an unbalanced discussion of consumer safety issues as the ICCR provides is always unacceptable, this exclusion is even more problematic in light of our analyses of product safety, which reveal that products sold in the U.S. frequently violate industry safety standards and contain ingredients banned in other countries. Our findings raise fundamental concerns about closed-door industry-regulator meetings that could further weaken international cosmetic policies.

EWG’s research shows that nearly 90 percent of ingredients in personal care products have not been assessed for safety and many contain ingredients that are known toxins like mercury and lead that are linked to very serious health problems. Cosmetics do not have to be approved as safe by the FDA before they are sold. As a result, they can contain hazardous ingredients banned in other countries.

This complete absence of accountability to a responsible government agency has not served the American public well. Instead, it has created a culture of ignorance around personal care products, where far too little is known about ingredient safety, while the industry and the FDA steadfastly maintain that all products and their ingredients are safe.”




EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.