When shoppers pick up a bottle of baby powder or a pack of makeup from a store shelf they don’t expect that they’re about to carry asbestos, benzene, formaldehyde or other cancer-causing ingredients to the checkout counter. But all too often in recent years, that has been the case, so Washington’s Sen. Patty Murray did something about it.
Murray, a Democrat, was the champion behind the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act, signed into law as part of December’s omnibus federal budget bill. It empowers the Food and Drug Administration to oversee cosmetic products like baby powder, lipstick, sunscreen and deodorant.
The FDA was founded more than 80 years ago, but until now it lacked authority to ensure manufacturers didn’t put profits ahead of safety when it came to cosmetics. Congress trusted industry to police itself, and that didn’t go so well.
“It sounds so simple, but the products we rub on our bodies every day should be safe,” said Scott Faber at the Environmental Working Group. “Most Americans assume they are. But, until Sen. Murray secured passage of MoCRA, companies making personal care products were under no statutory obligation to ensure they were safe.”
Under the measure, the FDA gains the authority to order mandatory recalls of unsafe cosmetics. Manufacturers must report a serious safety concern within 15 days of learning about it. They also must list contact information on product labels for consumers to report adverse reactions.
The legislation ramps up direct oversight of manufacturing operations, too. The FDA will establish manufacturing regulations for cosmetic makers. All manufacturers must register their facilities and establish testing procedures to detect asbestos in products that contain talc, which used to be a common ingredient in baby powder.
The FDA also will assess the use of PFAS in cosmetics. PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that can accumulate in the body and the environment and cause health problems. Washingtonians are all too familiar with them.
Consumers owe a debt of gratitude to Murray for looking out for them when the FDA couldn’t — and manufacturers wouldn’t.