As a cosmetic formulator I’m often annoyed by chemical fear mongering of NGOs and other non-scientists who claim that cosmetics represent a significant health concern. The reality is that there is no evidence that parabens or formaldehyde-releasing preservatives cause any harm. There is no evidence that mineral oil or petrolatum or sodium lauryl sulfate or any of the other most vilified cosmetic ingredients cause actual problems. And yet there are entire groups who’s sole existence is to unnecessarily frighten people about products that are tested and safe. `
Usually, I think they are just misguided but on my more cynical days I believe it to be a plot by Big Natural Cosmetics to dupe unsuspecting consumers into spending much more for their cosmetic products than they have to.
While the NGOs and their cosmetic chemical fearmongering annoys me there is something I find really strange. There does not appear to be an equivalent group who campaigns against a real danger in the US…dietary supplements.
Wild wild west of dietary supplements
While the cosmetic industry is regulated by the FDA, in the US the dietary supplement industry is essentially unregulated. They used to be, but in 1994 Congress passed the DSHEA which severely limits the power of the FDA to regulate dietary supplements. They have some recall ability and power to regulate medical claims but for the most part if you want to sell a dietary supplement in the US you can pretty much sell anything you want.
It really is a travesty and represents a significant health concern for consumers. There are lots of stories about the dangers of these products. This recent study demonstrated that about two thirds of the FDA recalled dietary supplements were still on the store shelves and contained banned drugs! That’s right even after an FDA recall for banned drugs in dietary supplements, consumers could still find them on store shelves.
These products are things you ingest. They get into your body where they can do actual damage. They are not simply put on the surface of your skin but rather right into your bloodstream. And the products are not required to be proven safe before being sold. As long as the manufacturer says they are safe, they can be sold. No proof required. In fact, nothing is required by the FDA unless there is some demonstrable health problem. And even after an FDA recall not much happens.
Something to be concerned about
This is a serious risk to consumers. It’s a real danger that people should be concerned about. And yet there is silence. NGOs like the EWG have nothing to say about it. Why can’t the Food Babe redirect her efforts to something that actually harms people? Fear mongerers like Mercola will scream about the “dangers” of cosmetics and then sell unregulated dietary supplements that could be filled with actually dangerous, illegal drugs.
It makes no sense to me.
The DSHEA has to go and the dietary supplement industry in the US needs much better regulation. How many people must die before it happens?
It seems there was movement afoot to do something in 2010 but obviously this has stalled in our do-nothing congress.