FDA Tests Find Asbestos in Nine Cosmetic-Talc Products

Asbestos Exposure & Bans

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found asbestos-contaminated talc in nine of the 52 cosmetic products tested during its year-long study released this week.

The products with toxic asbestos were recalled at various times throughout the past year when individual results were obtained and the public was notified.

Monday’s announcement by the FDA was labeled a Constituent Update and Final Report. It also included those products that showed no trace of contamination.

AMA Analytical Services Inc. in Lanham, Maryland, performed all testing for the FDA, using polarized light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy, currently the most sensitive testing method.

The contaminated products, with name and brand, include:

  • Claire’s Compact Powder style #83915-9, Claire’s
  • Claire’s Contour Palette style #40194-3, Claire’s
  • JoJo Siwa Makeup Set, Claire’s
  • Contour Effects Palette 2, City Color
  • Timeless Beauty Palette, City Color
  • Matte Blush (Fuchsia), City Color
  • Shimmer Bronzer (Caramel), City Color
  • Bronzer (Sunset), City Color
  • Johnson’s Baby Powder, Johnson & Johnson

Fueling the Lawsuits

The traces of asbestos found in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder — announced in October — attracted the most attention in 2019 because of its ubiquitous use for several decades.

It also has helped fuel the thousands of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson by those who believe they were harmed by the product.

The inhalation or ingestion of microscopic asbestos fibers can lead to serious medical problems, including malignant mesothelioma cancer, lung cancer and ovarian cancer.

Some of the results have been disputed by various manufacturers. Johnson & Johnson, for example, insists that its product is safe and asbestos-free.

After the FDA’s announcement in October, independent laboratories hired by Johnson & Johnson found no traces of asbestos in the product, including the same samples tested for the FDA.

Testing Can Be Disputed

The dispute over testing was evident in the FDA’s own study released this week.

The transmission electron microscopy detected asbestos in nine products, but the polarized light microscopy found asbestos only in two of those nine. The exact quantification of asbestos minerals has been disputed for many years.

The products selected by the FDA for testing in this study were based on various factors, including price range, type of talc-containing cosmetic product, and those that already had been reported by others to be contaminated.

“As such, the occurrence of positive samples in the 2019 testing should not be interpreted as reflecting the overall frequency of positive samples in the marketplace,” the FDA press release stated.

More Tests Are Coming

The FDA will continue sampling products throughout 2020. More than 50 new products are expected to be selected. Those results will be released throughout the year.

Under current law, cosmetic products and ingredients – other than color additives – do not need FDA approval before coming to market.

There is a legal responsibility by individuals and companies that market cosmetics to ensure the safety of their products.

Cosmetic companies do their own safety testing but are not required to share safety data with the FDA, which can take action based on its own or other reliable testing.

There is legislation expected to be debated in Congress in coming months that could levy restrictions on the production of talc-based cosmetics and possibly require warning labels on certain products.

The issue of asbestos-containing talc stems from the mining of the two naturally occurring minerals, which often are found in close proximity on the earth’s surface.

Talc is known for its ability to absorb moisture and improve the feel of products. It is used in hundreds of products, including facial makeup and foods such as chewing gum and rice.

Asbestos, unfortunately, is toxic.

The FDA last month held a day-long public hearing to discuss the various testing methods for asbestos in talc and cosmetic products.

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