WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration is considering a ban of a carcinogenic chemical found in hairspray, FDA commissioner Frank Young told a House subcommittee Thursday.
The agency is still sifting through comments on the proposed regulation that would ban methylene chloride as a hairspray ingredient but expects to complete its work by the end of the year, Young said.
'All the evidence indicates that this is a hazardous substance. When used for a few minutes every morning, it produces some risk,' he told the House Small Business Subcommittee on Regulation and Business Opportunities.
Most companies that used the cancer-causing chemical have voluntarily stopped using it, but the proposed rule would ensure that it was no longer used, Emil Corwin, an FDA spokesman, said.
Subcommittee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., saidhe was pleased with FDA's action on methylene chloride, but noted hundreds of other possibly unsafe chemicals may be found in cosmetics because the agency does not have the same broad-reaching authority to regulate cosmetics as it does foods and drugs.
The subcommittee heard testimony this summer on the danger of some cosmetics. Wyden recalled the case of a woman whose hair caught fire after she lit a match shortly after spraying her hair.
But the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association and other trade organizations told the subcommittee cosmetics are among the safest consumer products available and the FDA has enough legal power to regulate the cosmetic industry.
'Even though our products are remarkably safe, we intend to take every reasonable step to make their use even safer,' association president E. Edward Kavanaugh told the panel.
Cosmetic manufacturers are not required to provide information on product safety or register ingredients with the FDA, Wyden said. In cases of false and misleading advertisements, the FDA must prove the products are unsafe rather than require the cosmetic company to prove the product is safe, he said.
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Committee -- an industry voluntary self-regulatory program -- has only looked at 300 ingredients and is 'clearly no substitute for unbiased government oversight,' Wyden said.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found 884 toxic cosmetic ingredients that produce or are suspected of causing harmful side effects, Wyden said. These effects included, among others, reproductive complications, tumors and eye and skin irritations.
But Young, who has looked at the list of 884 chemicals, said they would have to be analyzed further to determine their toxicity. Many chemicals are safe at low concentrations, he said.
Among the other problems cited by Wyden was the lack of labeling on products used by hairdressers and cosmetologists.
The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association and other trade associations announced plans to expand product information to hairdressers and cosmetologists.