Quantcast

Did You Know ... Most Imported Cosmetics Are Never Tested by the FDA

Health + Wellness
iStock

By Melanie Benesh

According to a New York Times story published Wednesday, contaminants such as mercury, lead and bacteria, and other banned ingredients, are showing up in an alarming number of imported personal care products. This follows recent news that asbestos was found in tests of imported makeup marketed to tweens.

The Times story is based on a letter sent to Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In the letter, the FDA revealed that imports of personal care products have doubled in the last decade and that imports from China have increased 79 percent in the last five years. The FDA also disclosed that in 2016, 15 percent of imported personal care products inspected had adverse findings and 20 percent of products the FDA tested in its own labs had adverse findings.


Usually, an adverse finding meant an illegal color additive was used, or there was microbial contamination in the product. The majority of contaminated products were from China.

Some of the FDA's most troubling discoveries included:

  • Skin whitening creams with high levels of mercury.
  • Hairsprays containing methylene chloride, an ingredient banned in cosmetics and that has been linked to deaths from its use in paint strippers.
  • Cosmetics kits with high levels of Citrobacter, Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus bacteria.
  • Eye makeup containing color additives, banned for decades because they are hazardous to eyes.
  • Temporary tattoo products with unapproved color additives.

Even scarier, the FDA's findings likely underrepresent the full scale of the problem.

The vast majority of personal care product imports are never inspected. In fact, the FDA discovered the problems listed above by inspecting fewer than 1 percent of imports. Of the nearly 3 million imported shipments of personal care products, the FDA was only able to inspect fewer than 10,000. The FDA only tested an even smaller sample of imported cosmetics: 374.

The FDA lacks both the authority and the resources to fully address the public health risks cosmetics can pose. While the agency can inspect imported cosmetics, foreign manufacturers currently have no obligation to tell the FDA where they are located, what products they are making or what ingredients they are using.

Of the 29,000 foreign companies exporting cosmetics to the U.S., very few have registered with the FDA. There is no obligation to report adverse reactions to cosmetics or make them in clean facilities using so-called good manufacturing practices. The FDA cannot issue a mandatory recall of dangerous cosmetics under current law.

Recently introduced legislation, the Personal Care Products Safety Act, would give the FDA these basic authorities and would also require fees from the cosmetics industry, significantly increasing the agency's ability to address health risks from cosmetics.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pixabay

By Claire L. Jarvis

A ruckus over biofuels has been brewing in Iowa.

Read More Show Less
Serena and Venus Williams have been known to follow a vegan diet. Edwin Martinez / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Whitney E. Akers

  • "The Game Changers" is a new documentary on Netflix that posits a vegan diet can improve athletic performance in professional athletes.

  • Limited studies available show that the type of diet — plant-based or omnivorous — doesn't give you an athletic advantage.

  • We talked to experts about what diet is the best for athletic performance.

Packed with record-setting athletes displaying cut physiques and explosive power, "The Game Changers," a new documentary on Netflix, has a clear message: Vegan is best.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An illegally trafficked tiger skull and pelt. Ryan Moehring / USFWS

By John R. Platt

When it comes to solving problems related to wildlife trade, there are an awful lot of "sticky widgets."

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be both good and bad.

On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and disease.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Dan Nosowitz

It's no secret that the past few years have been disastrous for the American farming industry.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and coconut oil are fats that have risen in popularity alongside the ketogenic, or keto, diet.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Bijal Trivedi

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Nov. 13 that describes a list of microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics and pose a serious threat to public health. Each year these so-called superbugs cause more than 2.8 million infections in the U.S. and kill more than 35,000 people.

Read More Show Less
Rool Paap / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be good or bad depending on the situation.

Read More Show Less