Some Lawmakers Trying To Expand FDA’s Authority Over Cosmetics

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Cosmetic companies are not required to report injuries or “serious adverse” reactions to the FDA.

Some lawmakers are now pushing to change that, but companies disagree on how far new rules should go.

Chances are good you’ve seen the Wen Hair Care product ads.

Celebrity endorsements helped attract lots of customers, including 11-year-old Eliana Lawrence, who two years ago used the product and then lost most of her hair.

“I was scared I wasn’t going to get my hair back,” says Eliana.

Her mother, Miriam, saw the impact right away.

“I noticed her hairbrush was overflowing with hair. I’d never seen her brush in that condition before,” Miriam Lawrence said.

Eliana is hardly alone. The company admits receiving some 21,000 complaints, but the general public never knew that.

That’s because the company has no obligation to report the complaints, and under a 1938 law, the FDA has limited power to regulate the $62 billion cosmetics industry.

“We’re talking baby wipes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo,” attorney Tina Sigurdson says. “There’s no legal requirement that a company make sure a product is safe before they sell it.”

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That disturbs Dr. Leo McCafferty, a local skin care and plastic surgeon who deals with cosmetics regularly.

“Anything we put on our body or in our mouth is in many ways a drug, right? And can interact with our bodies in a number of ways. People can be allergic to things, sometimes deathly so,” said Dr. McCafferty.

He strongly supports a bill in Congress to expand the FDA’s authority to cosmetics.

“This is something the public really needs and deserves,” Dr. McCafferty says.

Congressman Mike Doyle agrees.

“If there’s adverse reactions that people are having – skin rashes, hair falling out, or things like that – those need to be reported and people need to know about it,” Congressman Doyle says.

But Congressman Doyle thinks it’s unlikely Congress will act this year; so in the meantime, Wen products – which the company insists are safe – are still on store shelves.

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