Hearing Recap:Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Examined the Public Health Risks of Carcinogens in Consumer Products

Mar 12, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Mar. 12, 2019)—Today, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, chaired by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, held a hearing on the Public Health Risks of Carcinogens in Consumer Products.

 

TAKEAWAYS

 

  • There was bipartisan concern about asbestos contamination of personal care products containing talc.  There are more than 2,000 talc-containing products on the market.  Americans on average use nine personal care products daily. 

 

  • An epidemiologist from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center testified that talcum powder does significantly increase the risk of cancer.  That testimony was based on a meta-analysis of 38 scientific studies.

 

  • The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to require warning labels for potentially hazardous products, but the agency has not used that authority to warn consumers of the potential dangers of asbestos-contaminated talc.

 

  • The Subcommittee questioned marketing practices that target women of color, including an internal company memorandum entitled “Major Opportunities” in which Johnson & Johnson sought to “investigate ethnic opportunities to grow the franchise” citing “Johnson’s Baby Powder has a high usage rate among African Americans and Hispanics.”

 

  • The Subcommittee intends to inquire further about the safety of talc and evaluate steps other countries have taken to prevent cancer caused by personal care products.  Canada recently issued a warning that the use of talc for genital hygiene leads to a greater risk of ovarian cancer.

 

 

BACKGROUND

 

  • The purpose of the hearing was to examine (1) the scientific evidence of health risks from long-term use of consumer products containing talc; and (2) federal regulatory framework over consumer products.
  • Talc is used in many consumer products and is often contaminated with asbestos.

 

  • Since the 1960s, scientists have identified a possible link between ovarian cancer and the use of powders containing talc.

 

  • On February 21, 2019, the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued subpoenas in an investigation of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder.

 

  • On March 5, 2019, the FDA confirmed that it detected asbestos in product samples collected from Claire’s and Justice retailers marketed to children.

 

  • In the wake of these findings, the FDA issued a statement urging cosmetic firms to “take responsible steps to voluntarily register their products and list ingredients, including talc, used in their products via the FDA’s Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program.” 

 

WITNESSES

 

Dr. Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD

Member

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

 

Scott Faber

Vice President of Government Affairs

Environmental Working Group

 

Marvin Salter

Son of Deceased Ovarian Cancer Patient

 

Watch Chairman Krishnamoorthi’s opening statement.

Watch Rep. Pressley‘s question line.

Watch Rep. Tlaib ‘s question line. 

116th Congress