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Protecting consumers from harmful cosmetics

In recent years, a number of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of individuals who have suffered chemical burns, hair loss and other challenges simply because they used certain cosmetics. In particular, a number of popular hair care products sold to both men and women have resulted in significant injuries.

Why are certain hair care products allowed to remain on the market despite their dangerous nature? And why are lawsuits so important to the future safety of cosmetics? The answers to these questions begin and end with the authority of the Food and Drug Administration. 

The power to act

The FDA is the federal agency most directly tasked with ensuring the safety of food and products that consumers either ingest or apply to their bodies. However, the authority of the FDA is surprisingly spotty in some regards.

Specifically, the FDA does not have the authority to widely regulate all cosmetics and ingestible substances. For example, the agency does not generally have the authority to oversee the production and safety of herbal drugs. Similarly, the FDA does not currently test cosmetic ingredients for safety, nor does it have the authority to institute mandatory recalls for unsafe cosmetic products.

As a result of these gaps in the FDA's authority, some hair care product manufacturers have not been held accountable at a federal level for selling potentially harmful products to consumers.

The power to effect change

According to the New York Times, several members of Congress are currently pushing for legislation that would help to expand the FDA's authority in regards to this pressing issue. Until such legislation is passed however, the power to effect change remains with those individuals who have been injured by unsafe cosmetic products.

By filing complaints with the government, injured individuals lend support to the current push for necessary legislation. In addition, by filing personal injury lawsuits, these individuals can help to ensure that these companies are held accountable. Accountability helps to inspire change, because companies generally do not welcome the possibility of being served additional lawsuits by other injured individuals. To avoid this possibility, they do tend to work to make their products safer. 

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