Claire’s Refutes Reports of Asbestos-Containing Makeup
January 5, 2018
Claire’s on Thursday said lab results have certified its products are asbestos-free, just a week after the children’s accessories retailer recalled nine makeup kits over concerns of contamination.
“We are pleased to report that test results received to date from two certified independent labs confirm that the products in question are asbestos free, completely safe and meet all government requirements,” a company statement said.
The talc used in the makeup products was sourced from Merck KGaA. The pharmaceutical giant provided certificates of analysis to Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration showing their talc is asbestos-free.
Claire’s, an accessories store founded in the 1960s and with more than 3,000 stores in the world, said it plans to share the results of the two independent lab tests with the federal agencies as well.
“Any report that suggests that the products are not safe is totally false,” a spokesperson for Claire’s said in a statement.
The World Health Organization has long held that no form of asbestos is safe, and any amount of exposure can lead to serious health conditions such as mesothelioma.
North Carolina Lab Stands by Its Initial Results
Claire’s pulled the cosmetic products in response to a report from WJAR-TV in Rhode Island.
The station cited mother Kristi Warner, who sent samples of her 6-year-old daughter’s glitter makeup to Sean Fitzgerald, director of research and analytical services at Scientific Analytical Institute (SAI) in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Fitzgerald said an analysis of the product showed it tested positive for tremolite asbestos. Those results led to an investigation of 17 products acquired from 10 different Claire’s stores in nine states. Fitzgerald said all tests returned the same result: They contained tremolite, a noncommercial form of asbestos often found as a contaminant in products containing talc.
However, Claire’s statement showed the company refuted those results and Fitzgerald’s testing methods.
“We only learned of the claims after they went to the press,” Claire’s statement read. “We have made multiple requests for Mr. Fitzgerald’s detailed test data, but it has not been provided to us. Mr. Fitzgerald also went to the press in July with claims that testing of cosmetics from Justice showed evidence of asbestos, which Justice refuted after analysis of a third-party ISO-certified testing lab.”
Fitzgerald told Asbestos.com Friday that he has not received any specific requests. He also questioned the validity of the independent testing done on behalf of Claire’s, noting companies often use testing methods that, although approved, are not up to today’s testing standards.
“The test for the determination for asbestos in talc is not something that ISO specifically certifies a laboratory for,” Fitzgerald told Asbestos.com. “So their assertion that two ISO-certified laboratories didn’t find any asbestos doesn’t impress me in the least.”
Fitzgerald said when testing for microscopic asbestos fibers, SAI uses a transmission electron microscope, which is more sensitive than other methods such as X-ray diffraction (XRD) and polarized light microscopy (PLM).
“When other laboratories tested, perhaps they’re using light microscopy or XRD, which is not sensitive enough,” Fitzgerald explained. “If I only use PLM or XRD on my samples, more likely than not, only a couple of them would be have been positive, if any.”
Claire’s didn’t disclose which labs performed their tests and have not shared those reports publicly. Fitzgerald said he has yet to receive any requests for the actual samples SAI tested, and he noted Claire’s tests may have involved the same products but with differences in batches of cosmetics.
“When I find asbestos in a product, at one point or another, I’m asked to give up those samples or a split of the samples so another laboratory that is similarly equipped can repeat my analysis,” Fitzgerald said. “I know they didn’t test the same products because the products are sitting here in my lab.”
Asbestos in Children’s Products a Recurring Issue
SAI was the lab that discovered asbestos fibers in the Just Shine Shimmer Powder sold by Justice, another national retail chain marketed to young girls.
Fitzgerald said he has also found asbestos in other children’s products such as off-brands of CSI fingerprint kits and crayons.
“Are there other manufacturers of cosmetics where similar testing would reveal similar results? The answer is yes,” Fitzgerald said. “We just haven’t found them yet because there’s no mandate to test.”
Fitzgerald said parents should be aware of the ingredients in their children’s products, notably talc, which forms with certain minerals, including types of asbestos.
“In all of these kits, the reason I’m finding asbestos and the type of asbestos I’m finding is because of talc,” he said. “When I’m finding tremolite, that points back to talc. That’s what I found in the Justice Just Shine powder; that’s what I found in all of the Claire’s products from sea to shining sea; and that’s what I found in the finger print powder 10 years ago.”