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Inside the Cosmetics

Previously I have blogged on the ills of some water and the dangers of a toothpaste. This blog is about cosmetics.

Currently, no law requires that any cosmetic products or ingredients, except for color additives, have FDA approval. This brings up the issue of “when is regulation good?”. If you are a business, then the answer might be a resounding never, unless it’s regulation of a competitor. As a consumer, regulations may be the seat belt of a runaway industry.

The last time that Congress enacted regulations for personal care products like shampoo and cosmetics, it was around the start of World War II. So if you do the quick math, it’s been almost 80 years since, while businesses keep making products that we use on our skin.

We don’t just stick our face in a Number 9 Washtub now. I use all kinds of products, shampoos and moisturizers and I still have Summer hair. Some are here and some are gone… Boom!

Skin is known to quickly absorb chemicals and certain ingredients that have been linked to cancer, a breakdown of immune systems, and even reproductive disorders.

If a shampoo causes your hair to fall out… there is no government agency that is regulating it for recall. This happened with hair products under the Wen brand.

A company called Beautycounter evaluated skin and beauty products and determined that there are more that 1500 chemicals lurking in these cosmetics that could be classified as harmful to us, or have already been linked to cancer. Their website is right here if you want to do some reading on their evaluations. They also sell products that they consider as safe, so it’s OK if your antennae goes up about whether they have an agenda.

On their site, they have a NEVER LIST that identifies products that can be found in these cosmetics that include formaldehyde, the synthetic antioxidnats of BHA and BHT as well as the skin-lightening chemical hydroquinone.

Organizations began lobbying Congress to do something about safety of these products instead of just turning a blind eye. In 2014, the Personal Care Products Safety Act was introduced. It would give the FDA the authority to test ingredients and issue mandatory recalls for unsafe products. There will be more debate on this bill but it does appear to be getting bipartisan support to indicate that some form of the bill will pass into law next year.

For now, independent companies like Mary Kay as well as the Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers and Distributors are opposing the bill. To give you a look into the bill as an example, the legislation would only require that the FDA test five products a year. Ironically, there are laws in European countries that have banned or restricted more than a thousand ingredients that had, at one time, been put into cosmetics.

Here is more on the Safety Act that was introduced. Here is the counter argument for why the bill should be introduced. ( For an unbiased opinion, where is that unicorn when you need it?


And for pic o’ day, when dogs watch scary movies!



Big Gulp of Metal

Hexavalent chromium! Does that make your eyes gloss over. Not really “click bait” to make you excited to read.

I’m not sure that this story will make you tell the waitress that you would like to order two chickens and a coke, but it may cause you to say “no thanks” when she asks you if you would like a glass of water.

A report released by an environmental research group found concentrations of hexavalent chromium in the public drinking water systems of 200 million Americans. This includes the utilities that serve Richmond, Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Hexavalent chromium found in the water is a metal that is known to cause cancer in laboratory rats and mice. The metal is known to be associated with industrial pollution from  such things as steelmaking, chrome-plating, coal ash, paints, inks and plastics.

It is considered a carcinogen when inhaled. This is also the chemical made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich, because as a paralegal she worked on these kinds of claims. You just don’t expect to see it in “our water”.

It’s a fair question to ask why there isn’t more concern over the drinking water. The government (Environmental Protection Agency) tells us not to worry. This contaminant is considered well below the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level for total chromium of 100 parts per billion.

That’s just some defined general amount. That’s code for “we’re fine”. Here’s the kicker: For drinking water, the EPA has no maximum contaminant level for this metal.  Does that make you feel better? Me… not so much. It makes me think twice about ordering a glass of water at a restaurant.

As far as I know, unless you are a superhero or the Tin Man, I can’t figure out any good to the concept of having a glass of metal with my meal.

And for pic o’ day:


The Next FDA Commissioner

Conflict or Qualified? The NY Times just did a story on the recent Presidential nominee to head the FDA. The title of the article tells the summary of the story, F.D.A. Nominee Califf’s Ties to Drug Makers Worry Some.

The article starts out with a meeting in May 2014, and presentation that Dr. Robert M. Califf gave to a group of biomedical researchers,  pharmaceutical lawyers and industry experts.

His PowerPoint slides showed the importance of speeding up the pace of biomedical innovation by transforming research. Near the end of the presentation, one slide was put up that indicated one barrier to that pace: Regulation.

At the time, no one reacted to that one slide. Now, it has garnered some attention because this Cardiologist/nominee will potentially be the “Police Chief” of medications that get approved and make it to our pharmacies.

He is a renowned clinical researcher who is unquestionably qualified to lead the agency. On the other hand, he will be in charge of an agency that regulates what is responsible for about a quarter of every dollar that we spend.

This agency is now facing such issues as whether/how to regulate electronic cigarettes. Dr. Califf’s previous job was heading up Duke University’s research center, which received more than 60% of its funding directly from pharmaceutical companies. Does that make him too close to them and create a conflict; or does his familiarity with the industry make him more qualified to regulate it.

Dr. Califf personally received $215,000 as a consultant from drug companies from 2009-2015. As a side note, several years ago Frank Luntz did research on the term drug companies and advised them to start calling themselves pharmaceutical companies. Drug Company sounded bad to the public. More on that in his book Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear.

“Pharmaceutical Companies” have always been known to have great ties to government while employing powerful lobbyists. In 2002, the Homeland Security Act that we all knew was going to make us safe as it was signed into law… also contained a provision buried deep in the legislation that protected Eli Lilly and a few other big drug companies against  lawsuits by parents who believed that there children had been harmed by thimersol.


    So, the question really remains, when is regulation protective and when is it too restrictive? Let’s hope that Dr. Califf knows the balance. As one professor who worked with him observed, “How does he think? We won’t know until we see how he behaves.”



And for pic o’ day, a bit of surveillance:


Regulations… Why?

In 1866, Gideon John Tucker wrote a legal opinion that related to a decision in a will case, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session”. During the 19th century, statesman Daniel Webster reportedly observed that “Now is the time when men work quietly in the fields and women weep softly in the kitchen; the legislature is in session and no man’s property is safe”.

The Libertarian Party is based on a platform that includes the following platform: “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values to benefit others”.  They also include the specifics of that platform by further stating that, “We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose“.

There are a lot of people who are angry at the government. They read the words of Tucker or Webster and nod in agreement. They hear the platform of the Libertarian Party and it makes them want to learn more. That’s because even the word “regulation” sets some people off. They are downright angry at the government intruding in their lives. In light of that thinking, the purpose of this blog is to recognize that thought, but also contrast it with some benefits that have been provided by the government because of laws and regulations.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is in charge of the National Weather Service. That agency warns us of hurricanes. In fact, a look-back at a 1900 hurricane in Galveston, Texas, reminds us that it killed 8000 people; making it the deadliest hurricane in our history.

Moving forward to Hurricane Ike that hit Galveston in 2008; Because of the National Weather Service, a network of satellites worked together to provide notice of the impending weather condition. Unfortunately, more than 100 people died during the storm, but over 1 million people were evacuated to safer areas. A government agency had been responsible for saving lives that included requiring people to leave the area, when they were told to leave.

Another regulatory agency is the well-known Food and Drug Administration. It recently rejected painkiller Zohydro, calling it “Heroin in a capsule”. It also recently would not approve an epilepsy drug because it determined that the drug had very serious side effects. In addition, the FDA regulates food to keep microbes out of our food. Food and drugs can’t just hit the market without regulation. We count on that agency to keep us safe.

I could recite the benefits of other government agencies that includes the National Institutes of Health that does important research to fight diseases; as well as the Center for Disease Control, which monitors and targets health hazards.

Thankfully, there are rules that govern our safety. It’s why people in a safe community stop at traffic control signs and signals, even when they don’t see a car coming. They also sit on juries and make people accountable for breaking rules. Just some of the reasons that it’s good to have some government rules and regulations.

DID YOU KNOW that pigs, walruses and light-colored horses can be sunburned? Hmm… should they use sunscreen?

And for pic o’ day, here is some strategy:

Disguise Dog

Arsenic in the Apple Juice

Some things are hard to understand. Like, why are Koala Bears not really bears? Or, how can Oranges, lemons, and watermelons actually be berries? How can it be?

That’s how I felt when I read the story about (Reuters News) the Food and Drug Administration proposing to limit the amount of arsenic that is allowable in apple juice. Yes, arsenic that is now allowable in apple juice.

According to the FDA press release, it has been testing apple juice for several years and determined that the vast majority of samples contained low levels of inorganic arsenic. However, it was considered to be acceptable levels.

Inorganic arsenic has been linked to skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and diabetes. Apple juice sold in the United States can be made from a concentrate that is obtained from multiple parts of the world that may include the United States.

Now, the FDA has decided to take another look at what is considered to be acceptable consumer levels. The Reuters link gives information on the announcement and that public comments are now being considered in arriving at new possible standards. It makes me think that maybe apple juice is not such a good idea for the sippy cup.

DID YOU KNOW that snails can sleep for three years.  It allows them to survive in dry climates, when necessary. Does that have anything to do with a picture being worth a thousand words? OK, maybe not so much.

And now a bit of dancing levity for pic o’ day: (even the word levity makes me smile)


Notebook Cleanup

I made the mistake of trying to watch the TV show “The Firm”.  NBC figured out early on how bad it was and quickly moved it to Saturday. They sold it as “John Grisham”. There’s a reason why I stopped reading his books too. Although, someone is still buying them. Hope you didn’t waste time on that show.

Can you believe this story on firefighter cheating in Atlanta?  A Judge has ordered the city of Atlanta to pay $320,000 in a class-action suit, because two assistant fire chiefs “provided answers to a handful of firefighters before the exam.”  I know, I shouldn’t make any jokes about “liar liar pants on fire”.

In the world of facial creams, it turns out that the English language is a must. The FDA is warning  that some skin lighteners and anti-aging facial creams that purportedly remove age spots, freckles, blemishes and wrinkles; may contain mercury. Mercury is only good far away, like one of the planets. Turns out it might remove freckles and blemishes but Mercury might also remove your pulse… for many reasons.

The warning from the FDA is that any facial creams manufactured abroad were probably sold illegally in the US. Don’t use any creams that don’t have a label. (that one seems common sense, like I wouldn’t buy facial cream from a garage sale anyway, but I digress)

US Federal law requires ingredients to be listed on the product. Don’t use if the label is in anything but English. Don’t buy while traveling abroad. Plus, the words mercurous chloride, mercuric, and calomel are a no-no. Of course, those sound like something other than English anyway.

There’s plenty still in the notebook but this was a start. Our final blog cleanup story comes from the UK.  A lady sold this 3-year-old Chicken McNugget for $8100. It supposedly looks like George Washington.  Looks a little like the Elephant man to me.

Hard to top a “George Washington Chicken McNugget”, but let’s give it a shot for pic o’ day.


The Hot Dog Danger

     I was looking for a picture of a hot dog and got distracted. I landed on Big Foot instead of a footlong, Of course, we all know that we really don’t know what we are getting, when we are eating a hot dog.

     I remember being about 10 and being excited about hot dog night at the baseball park. We would go see the Tides in Norfolk; Some baseball and some free hot dogs.

     It was all you could eat. At the age of 10, you take it seriously. It becomes “all you CAN eat”. Plus, the hot dogs made you laugh because the food coloring would come right off in the bun. And, you would even have some shade of red/orange on the lips.

     Unfortunately, we  know that,  just as Big Foot is not a foot long hot dog; a hot dog is really not something that any of us should really be eating very often.

     Now there are advocacy groups that are trying to bring attention to the dangers of hot dogs. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is putting up billboards to publicize the health risks of hot dogs. 

     Another non-profit group has filed suit in New Jersey,  to ask a Judge to require hot dog companies in New Jersey, to include warnings on the sides of hot dog packs. The warning would include that hot dogs increase the risk of cancer.

     The American Institute of Cancer Research has done studies that show that consuming 50-grams of processed meat each day, increases colorectal cancer by 21%.  Most hot dogs are about 50-grams of processed meat.

     Additionally, studies have also connected processed meats to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other types of cancer. Processed meat consumption by children has shown connection to leukemia, ovarian cancer and even an early development of type 2 diabetes..

     Maybe if we didn’t see a hot dog as a friend named Oscar Meyer; or maybe if the package came with a warning that it caused cancer, it might make us think differently at the next cookout or that quick meal at night.

     It’s a  nutritional issue. Should food manufacturers be required to identify the  risks of what they make?  Or,  should government stay out of legislating what parents should feed their kids?

     It’s not just fat grams or sodium; These studies are connecting serious illnesses.

Akavar Class Action and Others

     It sounds like a great idea to be able to “Eat all you want and still lose weight”. Let’s put on our buffet pants right now. Unfortunately, you know the saying of “there’s no free lunch” . Now, we should also start saying that there is ” no all you can eat and don’t get fat lunch”. 

     A nationwide notice is being sent out, authorized by the United States District Court of Utah, relating to a class action lawsuit  that is being brought against the manufacturers of a weight loss supplement that is called Akavar 20/50.(Akavar) The lawsuit is called Miller v Basic Research LLC, et al. (Case No. 2:07-CV-871)

     In their ads for the supplement, the manufacturer made claims that the product had undergone “scientific evaluation” by a “team of doctors”.  The lawsuit alleges that there were no clinical trials; no scientific evidence that supported the claims of being able to eat anything you want and not gain weight; and that the advertisements were just making fraudulent claims.

          In 2009, Hydroxycut was recalled, because people claimed to have suffered severe liver damage injuries. I see their commercials again under the title of “Hydroxycut Advanced”. Now, they are pitching energy and weight loss in the same supplement. Notice, they hit the airwaves hard, right before swimsuit season. I wonder what change they made in the ingredients, that make it “Advanced”.

     Synerate weight loss was recalled, after more than 60 adverse events were reported. Many were deaths relating to heart attacks and strokes.

     The FDA just sent out a warning about an over the counter weight loss supplement called Fruta Planta. It is barred from the US and the warning went as far as to say that you should make sure that it gets thrown away, in a sealed container, so children and animals cannot  get to it.  

     It’s sad that people of bad character concoct some pill; set up a PO Box; and just start running TV ads that tout false claims. Meanwhile, people think that the ads are truthful and the pictures of the actors in their bathing suits, must be real. 

     The battle of the bulge lets these kinds of characters prey on the unsuspecting. History records that  Hitler believed that you should  “make the lie big; make it simple; keep saying it and eventually they will believe it”.

How Low is Low Sodium?

     There are some old sayings rattling around in my head, when I think of feeling low. Remember the one about, “I was so low that I sat on the edge of a dime and dangled my feet”?  Or, “when I came to my closet door, I walked under it and still had to look up”? Now, that’s pretty low.

     Maybe those old expressions should be a lesson in “low”, for Campbell Soup Company.  That’s because four New Jersey women have accused the soup maker of misleading consumers.  

     Suit was filed against Campbell, accusing them of falsely selling allegedly lower sodium soups, at premium prices. The pleadings claimed that Campbell’s 25% “Less Sodium Tomato Soup” had the exact same sodium levels (480 milligrams) as its regular tomato soup.

     Campbell Soup had filed a motion to dismiss the womens’ lawsuit. They claimed that the Food and Drug Administration, which  regulates product labeling, does not require Campbell to specify how one soup might compare with other soup products.

     US District Judge Jerome Simandle wrote in his order that “it was reasonable for plaintiffs to expect that the soups that they were receiving, had 25%-30% less sodium than the regular tomato soup; when the soups, in fact, had approximately the same amount of sodium.”

     Campbell Soup has always had that “down home” advertising campaign going for them.  Apparently, they consider the consumer to be dumb enough to pay more for a label, because they say that it’s low sodium. Makes you wonder about some of their other products, if that’s their marketing philosophy.

Two Sided, Where Do You Side?

     I love the offshore drilling debate. Those for it tell us that we need to drill off our US coasts, to help us be less dependent on foreign oil sources. And, don’t forget that offshore drilling provides jobs.

     Those against offshore drilling recite statistics that, at best, the US sits on 3% of the world’s oil reserves. Meanwhile, as a nation, we use 25%. Oh, and that stuff about the creation of jobs; The real creation of jobs is because of the expected clean-up, when the oil erupts into our waters.

     At our firm, we have a structured hiring system. Depending on the position, you might interview with 4-5 people. Then, you might have to take an online typing test. All that is pretty defined.

     In the last few years, I’ve also added a psychological test to the hiring process. It’s not an exact science, and here’s why.  If you read the test results, the interpreter usually puts paragraphs that seem a bit contradictory. A person might be very detailed. However, the report then goes on to say that they are under a bit of stress.

     Sometimes, a person who likes people, might talk too much to their co-workers. Someone who is so focused on their task at hand, may seem to “not be a team player”. I always feel like the person who provides the report is hedging the results. Or, maybe it really comes down to the fact that people can be good workers, if they put effort into it.

     The two sides to everything brings me to the main topic of the blog. You know that I enjoy the journey rather than the destination, but we ultimately arrive at the legal topic.

     The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a set of proposed rules that would put certain requirements on restaurants, fast-food chains, coffee shops, convenience stores and other grocery stores.

     As reported by, this is the governments’ latest effort to fight obesity. The rules would require that these locations “post the calorie content of standard items on their menus.” The agency would only require chains with 20 or more stores to be required to post such information.

     Now, here’s the two sides. Either you are all in, on the fight against obesity and the associated health costs and risks involved;  Or, you believe that such government rules are nothing more than another intrusion into our lives. Plus, it is another  expense on businesses.  Is it personal responsibility in your choices of food, or that you need such information to make personal choices.  That’s what makes it interesting for me to blog about!

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