By: Rebecca A. Meseroll, Ph.D.
Consumer Safety Regulations
Senators seeks increased FDA oversight for personal care products and cosmetics
Despite the ubiquity of personal care products and cosmetics, federal regulations of these goods have not changed significantly since the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was passed into law in 1938. A bill introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D- California) and Susan Collins (R- Maine) would give new regulatory oversight of personal care products to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Under the current regulations, cosmetics manufacturers are not required to divulge adverse health effects of their products reported to them by consumers and the FDA can only request that manufacturers voluntarily disclose this information to the public. If the bill becomes a law, companies would be required to report serious adverse health effects of products, such as death, disfigurement, and hospitalization, to the FDA within 15 days of notification by the consumer. Less severe health effects would need to be reported annually. Furthermore, the bill would require FDA’s yearly evaluation of at least five personal care product ingredients to determine whether the ingredients are safe, to what concentration they are safe, and whether they should have consumer warnings. Some of the proposed ingredients on the list for the first round of evaluations are propylparaben, a preservative in many products including shampoos and lotions, an estrogen-mimicking compound which can act as an endocrine system disruptor, and lead acetate, an additive in hair dyes. In addition to its bipartisan sponsorship, the bill has broad support of several large associations and companies representing the personal care industry, as well as consumer protection groups. (Rachel Abrams, The New York Times)
Federal Research Funding
A call for a doubling of the NIH budget
Health care costs are on the rise, while federal funds for biomedical research have stagnated for more than a decade. Taxpayers already spend upward of a trillion dollars annually on Medicare and Medicaid, but perhaps these costs could be reduced, if cures or preventative measures could be identified for some of the more financially demanding illnesses. Given these observations, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich argued last week, in an op-ed published in the New York Times, that Congress should plan double the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as they previously did between 1998 and 2003. In this article, which he directs particularly toward fiscal conservatives like himself, Gingrich selects Alzheimer’s as a representative disease and describes in detail the skyrocketing financial burdens and human suffering the disease will inflict on the American public if better preventions or cures are not discovered. He contends that there is a great deal of possibility for breakthroughs in treatments and cures for Alzheimer’s and many other diseases, and that increasing NIH funding would be a step in the right direction toward achieving those breakthroughs. Recent discussions in the Senate indicate there is bipartisan support for increasing NIH funding above current levels, although how close it will come to Gingrich’s proposed doubling remains to be seen. There is also history to consider, since the previous NIH budget doubling (and subsequent abrupt end of funds) has lead to some of the problems in federal biomedical research today, such as low grant funding rates and an overabundance of young researchers struggling to get their first grant to even attempt the “breakthroughs” touted by Gringrich. A long-term commitment to sustained funding increases to the NIH could be the best of both worlds. (Newt Gingrich, The New York Times; Peter Sullivan, The Hill)
Lab Animal Rights
Court orders hearing in lab chimpanzee rights case
New York Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe ordered Stony Brook University to appear in court on May 27, 2015 to respond to a petition by the animal rights group, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), that two evolution research chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, are being unlawfully detained. NhRP initially filed three lawsuits in 2013 contending that chimps are too cognitively advanced to be kept captive lawfully, and ought to be moved from the lab to a chimpanzee sanctuary. NhRP’s legal strategy has been to petition the courts with a writ of habeas corpus, which is traditionally used to challenge human imprisonment. Prior to the current court order, which was issued in appeals, the lawsuits have been struck down, as the courts stated that the writ of habeas corpus does not apply to the chimps because they are not legal persons. Even the current court order has been amended to strike the writ of habeas corpus, indicating that the court has not granted personhood to the chimps. The upcoming hearing will determine whether Hercules and Leo are being unlawfully detained, and ScienceInsider reports that NhRP has plans to continue to petition for the release of other animals on the basis of personhood, regardless of the outcome of this case. (David Grimm, ScienceInsider)
Have an interesting science policy link? Share it in the comments!