Regulators Lack Authority to Crack Down on Dangerous Chemicals in Cosmetics

Lenient federal and state laws hamstring authorities’ oversight of the $30 billion-a-year cosmetics industry. Even when there is compelling evidence that ingredients are dangerous, regulators have limited options. Under U.S. law, cosmetics companies don’t have to disclose chemicals or gain approval for the 2,000 products that go on the market annually. And it can take a court battle to stop sales of a potentially harmful product. “Although the sale of Brazilian Blowout in California violated five separate state health, environmental and consumer laws and resulted in numerous acute injuries, we have not been able to get it off the market,” a California health official said of the formaldehyde-laced hair treatment. Environmental Health News

Drug-resistant tuberculosis threatens the past decade’s progress in fighting the disease, a report says. World Health Organization figures show the number of people becoming ill with tuberculosis has fallen steadily for roughly a decade after a surge in the 1990s. Last year 8.7 million contracted the disease, down 2.2 percent from 2010. The death toll remained steady, at 1.4 million. However, the WHO estimates that only 19 percent of people infected with forms of the disease that are resistant to multiple TB drugs are being diagnosed, raising concerns about such cases spreading. The WHO blamed a lack of funding and technology for the lack of diagnostic testing in countries where drug resistance is flourishing. The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press

Investigations intensify into Massachusetts pharmacy linked to meningitis outbreak. While federal and state investigators examine the New England Compounding Center, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also is under scrutiny. The agency has limited authority to regulate compounding pharmacies, but it flagged violations at NECC as recently as 2006. A U.S. House of Representatives panel investigating the outbreak gave the FDA until Oct. 31 to turn over documents related to NECC, including communications dating back to 2004. Meanwhile, authorities said the death toll from the meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroids has reached 19 and, overall, the number of reported cases is nearly 250. Reuters, The Wall Street Journal

Problems plague U.S. factories that make injectable drugs. Quality lapses at big drug companies show that contamination and shoddy practices extend well beyond the loosely regulated compounding pharmacies that have attracted attention because of the recent meningitis outbreak. In the last three years, six of the major manufacturers of sterile injectable drugs have been warned by federal authorities about serious violations of manufacturing rules. Four have closed factories or significantly slowed production to fix problems. Nearly a third of the industry’s manufacturing capacity is off line because of quality issues, according to a Congressional report. The shutdowns have contributed to a shortage of critical drugs. The New York Times

Ohio auto parts plant accused of exposing workers to amputation hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused TFO Tech of 13 safety violations at its operation in Jeffersonville, Ohio, and proposed fines of $51,000. OSHA said Japan-based TFO, which employs about 140 workers at the Jefferson plant, failed to install safety guards or to follow proper equipment power shutoff procedures. “TFO Tech has a responsibility to ensure that employees are properly protected from known workplace hazards – such as machinery becoming unintentionally energized during maintenance – that can result in amputations and other serious injuries,” an OSHA official said. OSHA

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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