6K False Lashes From China Seized in New Orleans; Officials Unsure If Exposed to Disease

Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confiscated over 6,000 false eyelashes illegally imported from China to New Orleans on Tuesday. Authorities were unsure whether the lashes had been potentially exposed to diseases or unsanitary storage conditions by the manufacturer.

Four boxes containing the products arrived at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, according to KRON. The boxes didn't indicate who manufactured or distributed the lashes, CBP spokesperson Matthew Dyman said. The products were headed to a beauty supply shop in New Orleans.

Because of their lack of labeling, CBP agents couldn't determine whether the product had been determined to be safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Without FDA clearance, the lashes could've been exposed to diseases in the manufacturing plant or improperly stored in insect-infested areas after production, Dyman told The Times-Picayune.

New Orleans Louisiana fake eyelashes China disease
Over 6,000 false eyelashes from China were seized in New Orleans, Louisiana. Officials withheld the items because they lacked information about where they were produced, leaving them unsure if they might have been exposed to disease. In this photo illustration, fake eyelashes sit inside of plastic cases on a pink background. Iana Kunitsa/Getty

Dyman said shipments of non-FDA-approved lashes often arrive at the New Orleans international airport. He said Tuesday's shipment was "particularly large," according to WVUE-TV.

The FDA considers false eyelashes, eyelash extensions and their adhesives to be cosmetic products, CBP said in a statement. "As such, they must adhere to the safety and labeling requirements for cosmetics," the statement said.

"False eyelashes and eyelash extensions require adhesives to hold them in place," the statement continued. "Eyelids are delicate, and an allergic reaction, irritation or other injury in the eye area can be particularly troublesome."

The lashes are now being tested for potentially harmful effects. False eyelashes tainted with bacteria can cause eye infections, including painful swelling of the eyelids (styes) as well as a red inflammation in the whites of the eyes (conjunctivitis), according to the Howerton Eye Clinic.

The town of Pingdu in East China's Shandong Province contains hundreds of manufacturing plants that produce false eyelashes, according to The Global Times, China's state-run newspaper. One manufacturer told the publication that global demand for the product hadn't been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, even though holiday orders had lessened.

False eyelashes gained popularity in the early 20th century due to their use by Hollywood actresses. Back then, false eyelashes were made of human hair. Users then attached them to their eyelids by applying spirit gum adhesive onto an attached silk or gauze strip.

Nowadays, false eyelashes are often either made from synthetic materials, like plastic or rubber, or created out of organic materials such as human hair, horse hair or even mink fur, according to the false eyelash marketplace AllEyelashes.com. While synthetic varieties are cheaper and often intended for single-use, ones made out of organic hair are more expensive but can be used multiple times, if stored correctly.

Newsweek contacted the FDA for comment.