Three in every 10 injuries reported to consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), comes from cosmetics.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard revealed the staggering statistic during a speech at the cosmetics industry’s annual conference in Sydney yesterday.
The figures come from the ACCC’s mandatory reporting scheme, which gives suppliers 48 hours to report once they become aware that a product has or may have caused death, serious injury or illness. Under Australian Consumer Law, suppliers are also strictly liable for loss or injuries arising from defective consumer goods.
It seems face and body washes and creams, as well as deodorants are the main culprits, among 400 of 1200 injuries reported to the ACCC by law. Three years ago, the ACCC took action over a teeth whitening product that contained too much peroxide.
Injuries ranged from skin irritations, rashes, burns, dermatitis and allergic reactions, including, in one instance, an anaphylactic reaction to a hair dye.
In another instance, a woman developed an ulcerated cornea after using eyeliner.
Delia Rickard said that regular audits of the industry revealed a range of issues.
In mid-2013, the ACCC investigated whether microbiological contamination was a possible explanation for some of the cosmetic injuries, especially in water-based cosmetic products.
“A survey of products sold by online, cottage, and retail stores/outlets in Australia saw three out of 112 products tested return high microbial counts that vastly exceeded the European Union’s safe reference limits,” Rickard said. “Further testing revealed the presence of opportunistic pathogens that caused potential safety risks to sensitised individuals.
“This prompted us to quickly work with suppliers to voluntarily recall the unsafe products.”
She said that while compliance with the cosmetics labelling standard “was generally good”, however, some products had ingredient labelling that was inconsistent.
“Surprisingly low mandatory injury reporting rates were recorded for pharmacies, retail stores, department stores, and Australian based online sellers recorded no mandatory injury reports during that period, despite occupying an increasing proportion of sales in cosmetics in recent years” Rickard said.
But overall and despite nearly 400 reported injuries, she concluded that cosmetics were generally safe to use.
“Few other consumer products are directly applied to our bodies in the way cosmetics are. This means that people who make and supply cosmetic products need to be fully aware of their responsibilities,” Rickard said.
She warned the industry that the ACCC’s priority focus was on “credence claims”.
“Credence claims may relate to the presence or absence of an ingredient (i.e. formaldehyde free), product safety (i.e allergy tested) or the moral or social benefits of a product (i.e cruelty free, not tested on animals).
“Consumers cannot judge the truthfulness of claims made about products and they rely on suppliers to provide accurate and truthful information,” Rickard said.
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