Gillibrand, Former Tobacco Advocate, Wants FDA Oversight of Baby Products


Yesterday Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was seen around the city, proudly announcing her Safe Baby Products Act, which if passed would require the FDA to regulate personal care products for children, such as soaps, lotions, and shampoos.

It’s not a bad idea. A recent analysis of 48 baby products found most of them contained cancer-related chemicals like formaldehyde. Several countries have banned or restricted the use of such chemicals in all personal care products. Even China, no paragon of consumer safety, is investigating Johnson and Johnson’s use of chemicals in its baby products.

Gillibrand has two young children and says she’s alarmed that some of these chemicals might be in products she used on her own kids. Her concern for the public health is touching, if belated: As Tom Robbins reported earlier this year, Gillibrand spent most of the 1990s lawyering for the tobacco industry, lobbying to keep the connection between cigarettes and cancer from the public view.

As an associate at Davis, Polk & Wardwell, Kirsten Rutnik (not yet married to Jonathan Gillibrand) labored on Phillip Morris (now Altria) casework for years. She even traveled to a secret Phillip Morris Lab in Germany where engineers and scientists were using tests to prove the connection between tobacco and cancer.

Gillibrand has downplayed her ties to Philip Morris, which later contributed to her political campaigns. But when Robbins asked her spokeswoman if Gillibrand had ever, in her nine years with the firm, asked to be taken off the tobacco case, he was told that she had not.

The tobacco industry lobbied for years to prevent the FDA from regulating their products or revealing to the public the cancerous chemicals in them. Hopefully, American babies — who are 10 to 65 times more vulnerable to cancer-causing chemicals than adults — will benefit from Gillibrand’s change of heart. Photo via Kirsten Gillibrand for Senate.