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Lawmakers pushing to regulate cosmetics

Right now the Food and Drug Administration is all but powerless to regulate cosmetics. Bills in Congress could give the industry a facelift by banning ingredients linked to cancer and other disorders.

Jeremy Hobson: The beauty and fragrance company Coty wants to buy rival Avon for about $10 billion. It made the offer public this morning after unsuccessful private offers. Now, neither company faces much scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration because cosmetics aren't consider food nor drugs.

But three separate bills in Congress could change that as Marketplace's Nancy Marshall-Genzer reports.


Nancy Marshall-Genzer: There’s lead in lipstick, and we don’t even know what’s in perfumes. If Congress passed the toughest bill it’s considering, manufacturers would have to spell out what makes scented shampoos and after shave smell good. Regulators would ban ingredients linked to cancer or reproductive problems.

Janet Nudelman is policy director at the Breast Cancer Fund. She says these proposals would change the face of the cosmetics business.

Janet Nudelman: Because currently there is so little regulation of the industry, it’s a buyer beware situation.

Nudelman wants the FDA to define what’s safe, or natural, because right now those words are thrown around freely in commercials.

Mary Gilbert is an industry analyst with Imperial Capital. She says prices could go up if the FDA made companies switch around their product formulas.

Mary Gilbert: If they have to change it, it could be more expensive with the new ingredients that they’re substituting.

But Nudelman says some lotions and shampoos sold here have ingredients that Europe has already banned.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall-Genzer for Marketplace.

 

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.
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