American personal care brand Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) clean image was recently tarnished in the US. The personal care giant was ordered by a Missouri state jury to pay $72 million of damages to the family of a woman who died due to ovarian cancer. The woman had used Johnson & Johnson talc-based baby powder and Shower to Shower talc for more than three decades.
The court asked J&J to pay the family of Jacqueline Fox $10 million of actual damages, and $62 million of punitive damages. Fox had used the two powders of J&J brand for feminine hygiene, before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years ago. She died at the age of 62.
But we in India would not be surprised to hear this news. Back in 2013, Johnson & Johnson had lost its license in India due to an ordered case by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Over a dozen batches of baby powder bottles were found sterilized by an irritant and cancer-causing component, known as ethylene oxide. The FDA barred the company to produce the powder at their Mumbai’s Mulund plant.
The health hazards of ethylene oxide are aplenty. Constant exposure to this element can cause DNA alternation which leads to cancer. Also, it can damage the lungs and the cardiovascular system. However, the company tried to brush off the issue as a stock error, trying to shift the blame to the ‘expired’ lot. The matter was soon forgotten, and Indians were back to using the powder for newborns and toddlers alike.
Quite often, we tend to equate high-end brands and herbal products with “no health hazards.” Despite heavy metal concerns in ayurvedic formulations, there are no separate limits for herbal cosmetics. Disclosure of ingredients isn’t required. Reputed global brands too quite often questioned for the dubious presence of harmful chemicals. Right from body-wash to deodorants, lipsticks to fairness creams, baby powder to eye shadows, there is no product that has remained untainted by harmful chemicals.
In India, cosmetics are one of the most unregulated products under the law. In the past decade, makeup products both national and global, have hijacked the store shelves in India. Due to lack of any strict regulations, several products containing harmful chemicals are still sold in the Indian market. Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of India, 1940, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) is responsible for ensuring that cosmetics sold in the country are safe. But assessment is so lax that manufacturers pass the scanner by providing incomplete or ambiguous documents.
For Indian and international brands alike, a company can pass its product by registering the brand for just $250. In addition, they need to provide paperwork detailing product specification, testing protocols and attestation that the cosmetics do not include toxins banned in India.
With more purchasing power, people, especially women, now spend a reasonable chunk of money in cosmetics. Cosmetics brands are cashing in on this market trend. What they tend to ignore is that along with a high price tag, they are also putting their health under big threats.
Source: collective-evolution.com, The Times of India, downtoearth.org.in