FDA Meeting Hears Asbestos Inspection Concerns

FDA Hears Asbestos Inspection Concerns

Earlier this month, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) met publicly to discuss testing for asbestos in talc products. Talc is a mineral that is mined primarily for the main ingredient in baby powder. Talc is also used in a few other personal care products or cosmetic items. Asbestos is a group of silicate mineral fibers that reside naturally in the earth. The asbestos mineral fibers are classified into six different types, which are all carcinogenic. Since asbestos mineral fibers live naturally in the earth, this also makes them susceptible and more than capable of contaminating other mineral resources found in the ground. For the record, the last hearing held by the FDA to openly discuss asbestos testing in talc products occurred in the 1970s.

Food And Drug Administration (FDA)

The FDA is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Currently, the agency regulates food; drugs; medical devices; radiation-emitting products, vaccines, blood, and biologics; animal and veterinary; cosmetics; and tobacco products. From inception, the FDA was authorized to operate with authority upon the passage of the United States Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, passed by Congress in 1938. Proponents for the enactment of stronger laws that enable the FDA to have more oversight in screening products such as cosmetics, tend to believe that the federal laws in place are not adequate to protect the American public. Since Congress passed the act, in 1938, there have been no formal changes to any guidelines, in regards, to the oversight of cosmetic products, here in the United States.

Asbestos Inspection Laws Enforced By The FDA

From a legal aspect, the FDA enforces Congressional laws and regulations implemented by Congress. Current laws administered by the FDA for Cosmetics are the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, and the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. Also, Congressional regulations concerning cosmetics that are enforced by the FDA are Labeling Regulations and Regulations Related to Cosmetics from Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR).

Asbestos Can Contaminate Other Mineral Resources

Asbestos is a natural contaminant in specific sites mined for coal, vermiculite, mica, and talc. When asbestos is broken apart or disturbed from its residual environment, microscopic particles or fibers can become airborne, which leads to harmful exposure if swallowed or inhaled. Asbestos exposure can cause lung disease, lung cancer, and mesothelioma cancer. These mineral fibers or particulates, which cannot be seen by the ‘naked’ eye, can become lodged in the lining of the lungs or abdomen. Over time, these particles will buildup and can enhance lung cancer or exclusively cause mesothelioma cancer.

Recent Events May Have Led EPA To Hold A Public Hearing Current events of asbestos and chemical exposure may have led the FDA to reach out to consumers and personal product representatives; in order, to field questions and answers about testing, oversight, and regulatory compliance. As a whole, the FDA’s power to oversee, enforce, and regulate asbestos and chemical testing, in cosmetic products, is being questioned by the public at large.

Whether or not the meeting was called in light of the recent events of the past year, the time has never been better than to go ahead with the hearing after forty years away from the last time asbestos testing or regulation were discussed. Although, the asbestos use may be on a ‘downhill slide,’ the fact that asbestos can reside inside and contaminate other mineral resources is undeniable. This fact alone may be enough to warrant the continual monitoring and testing of all consumer products for asbestos contamination.

Asbestos Lawsuits And Trial Verdicts May Have Expedited Public Hearing For Concern

Recently, talc product manufacturers such as pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, have come under ‘fire’ for illness or disease, allegedly caused by asbestos contamination, in their talc products. As a result, numerous lawsuits were filed, and earlier this year, a 185million dollar jury trial awarded by a New Jersey court. In the end, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs, lifelong-consumers, after the plaintiffs were diagnosed with lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma cancer. The diagnosed illness was a result of using their products. The initial amount awarded to the plaintiffs was over $700million, but the maximum amount in regards to the punitive damages versus compensatory damages ratio measurement, according to New Jersey State Law, kept the maximum amount the judgment would allow to around $185million.

Cosmetic Product And Personal Care Product Labels Require Little Disclosure

At the moment, there does not seem to be a significant amount of disclosure required from cosmetic and pharmaceutical product companies. For example, labeling requirements seem to be very scant as far as requiring companies to disclose specific information that would enable a consumer to make a conscious decision regarding the ingredients involved with the product they intend to buy.

Naturally, companies want to protect their business or trade secrets. Still, there may be a time when personal products containing ingredients that could be harmful to human health by exposure need to be presented to the consumers who buy them. In comparison, the concept could be compared to buying a pack of cigarettes, which carry warning labels on the items. The difference in transparency across the board from where we are in comparison to other cosmetic consumer markets can seem less transparent than others, especially compared to other parts of the world.

United States prohibits < 90% less ingredients in Cosmetic products than European Union Today, the FDA is not required to enforce cosmetic companies to disclose more information about some of the ingredients they label or put in their products. To note, the United States prohibits 11 ingredients from being used in cosmetic products, and the European Union has banned more than 1,000 ingredients.

Cosmetic Industry Safety Advocates Propose Clarity On Labeled Ingredients

 Another example of transparency in the disclosure of an ingredient or chemical would be the term fragrance. The word Fragrance is allowed to be printed on cosmetic product containers here in the United States, without any explanation of what the contents that make up the formula or type of ‘fragrance’ in the product.

According to Janet Nudelman, director of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “ This is a problem that they argue very passionately on behalf of, but it’s a problem that they also created,” she said. “They argue that if the chemicals in an individual fragrance formulation were to be disclosed that it would crush their industry. That by disclosing the ingredients of Chanel No. 5 perfume that anyone could go into a laboratory and could create a replica.”

Bills Proposed For Stricter Federal Laws For Disclosing Personal Care Products

Currently, significant initiatives are underway that lawmakers and representatives are forming with the hopes of changing the disclosure requirements of labeling cosmetic products. Besides, empowering the FDA to enforce companies for more disclose information to be transparent with their products, more bills will be introduced to Congress. At this moment, five bills have been proposed to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.

5 Bills Presented To Enact Stricter Laws & Regulations For FDA Cosmetic Product Oversight

1)    Children’s Product Warning Label Act of 2019- H.R. 1816

2)    Personal Care Products Safety Act- S726

3)    Cosmetic Safety Enhancement Act of 2019- H.R. 5279

4)    Safe Cosmetics And Personal Care Products Act of 2019- H.R. 4296

5)    Natural Cosmetics Act- H.R. 5017

Consumers Need To Be Mindful Of Products

Mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure can lie dormant in the body before developing even after latent periods ranging from 30-50 years. On average, there are over 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma reported every year in this United States. Until product testing for chemicals and asbestos changes or stricter regulations for product labeling requirements for personal care products, we as consumers must be mindful of the items we use for personal use.

Asbestos Exposure With Personal Care Products Is Likely

As you can see, individuals that do not fall into a high-risk occupation or naturally contaminated area are still vulnerable to asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma from cosmetics or personal care product use. If you or a loved one feel as if you are suffering from the harmful effects of asbestos or chemical exposure from personal care products, please do not hesitate to contact an experienced asbestos or mesothelioma attorney.

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