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Talcum powder is a common ingredient in cosmetics. Talc occurs naturally alongside asbestos, easily leading to its contamination. Due to a lack of talc regulations, asbestos in cosmetic products is a growing concern. Stores such as Claire’s and Justice have recently come under fire for selling children’s makeup contaminated with asbestos. Even minimal exposure can put individuals at risk of illnesses such as mesothelioma.

01. Asbestos in Cosmetics

Why Is Asbestos in Cosmetics?

Because talc is a mineral found naturally near asbestos, it is frequently contaminated with asbestos. Mined talc often requires purification before it’s added to consumer goods.

Talc is currently an ingredient in many popular products. The ingredient can be found in supplements, medicine tablets, polished rice, chewing gum and cosmetics. It can also be used to process food.

Is Talc Safe?

Studies have shown talc is a safe ingredient, as long as it is free of asbestos. However, cosmetic talc regulations are limited, allowing many contaminated talc-based products to reach consumers.

The use of asbestos-contaminated talcum powder in consumer products has been a building issue in recent years. In October 2019, Johnson & Johnson recalled 33,000 bottles of baby powder after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) found trace levels of asbestos in the product. The discovery of asbestos in a popular household brand brought awareness to the dangers of contaminated talc and the need for stricter consumer product testing and regulations. In May 2020, Johnson & Johnson said it would no longer sell talc-based baby powder in North America.

Talcum Powder Use in Makeup

Talc is a common ingredient used in makeup. Talc is most common in powder-based products, such as eyeshadows, blush and powder foundation. Talcum powder may be listed as talcum powder, talcum, talc, cosmetic talc or magnesium silicate in an ingredient list. Companies use talc in makeup for a variety of reasons.

Why Is Talcum Powder Used in Makeup?
  • To absorb moisture
  • To add color to products
  • To enhance makeup visibility
  • To help makeup stay in place
  • To prevent caking or thick layering
  • To smooth or soften the product
  • To improve the feel of the product

Are There Talcum Powder Alternatives?

Cosmetic formulas continue to evolve, incorporating alternatives for talcum powder.

Ingredients that may provide similar benefits include silica, zinc oxide, corn starch, rice starch, tapioca starch, kaolin and rice powder. The safety of these alternatives still requires further testing.

Talc is still a very common ingredient in makeup products. If consumers continue to use products that contain talc, they should be aware of what products have proven asbestos contamination.

02. Makeup With Asbestos

What Makeup Has Asbestos?

As claims of asbestos in cosmetics emerge, the FDA is actively investigating more products across the United States. For instance, the FDA has performed testing for beauty products sold at Claire’s and Justice in several different states to confirm the presence of asbestos.

Makeup Products Containing Asbestos
  • Beauty Plus Global Inc. City Color Collection Matte Blush (Fuchsia) – Lot No. 1605020/PD-840
  • Beauty Plus Global Inc. City Color Cosmetics Timeless Beauty Palette – Lot No. 1510068/PD-C864R
  • Beauty Plus Global Inc. City Color Bronzer (Sunset) – Lot No. 160634/PD-P712M
  • Beauty Plus Global Inc. City Color Shimmer Bronzer (Caramel) – Lot No. 1612112/PD-840
  • Beauty Plus Global Contour Effects Palette 2 – Batch No. S1603002/PD-C1179
  • Claire’s Eye Shadows – Batch No/Lot No: 08/17
  • Claire’s Compact Powder – Batch No/Lot No: 07/15
  • Claire’s Contour Palette – Batch No/Lot No: 04/17
  • Claire’s JoJo Siwa Makeup Set – Batch/Lot No. S180109
  • IQ Toys’ Princess Girl’s All-in-One Deluxe Makeup Palette
  • Jmkcoz’s 120 Colors Eyeshadow Palette Makeup Kit
  • Jmkcoz’s Beauty Glazed Gorgeous Me Eye Shadow Tray Palette

The FDA is investigating other products to determine the presence of asbestos. Those items are not listed.

New cases of asbestos in makeup continue to emerge. As concerns regarding asbestos in makeup rise, more action is being taken to establish stricter cosmetic talc regulations.

03. Latest News

Latest News on Asbestos and Cosmetics

September 2017: Asbestos Found in Children’s Makeup Sold at Justice

A sample of Just Shine Shimmer Powder from Justice was sent to the Scientific Analytical Institute, Inc. in Greensboro, North Carolina for analysis. Asbestos and four heavy metals were found in the makeup. The store voluntarily recalled the product, and the FDA later confirmed the asbestos contamination.

December 2017: Claire’s Pulls Asbestos-Contaminated Products from Shelves

Testing was done on 17 different products from Claire’s stores across the United States, after concerns emerged about potential asbestos in their makeup. Every product tested was contaminated with asbestos, which was later confirmed by the FDA. Claire’s issued a voluntary recall of their products, but continued to deny asbestos claims. The company began to file for bankruptcy in March 2018.

March and June 2019: More Asbestos Makeup Products Sold at Claire’s

The FDA issued a warning that more Claire’s products tested positive for asbestos. The JoJo Siwa Makeup Set was recalled, as well as eyeshadow, compact powder and contour palettes sold by Claire’s.

June and September 2019: Beauty Global Plus Recalls Asbestos Cosmetics

Beauty Plus Global recalled one of their palettes in June 2019 alongside the Claire’s JoJo Siwa Makeup Set recall. In September 2019, the company recalled four additional products from their City Color line that tested positive for asbestos, including blush and bronzer.

January 2020: Millions of Asbestos Fibers Found in IQ Toys’ Makeup Kit

Tests financed by the Environmental Working Group found more than 4 million asbestos fibers in every gram of the eyeshadow in IQ Toys’ Princess Girl’s All-in-One Deluxe Makeup Palette. The children’s makeup palette was previously sold on Amazon and eBay.

May 2020: Asbestos Found in Makeup Products Sold on Amazon & eBay

Scientific Analytical Institute, Inc. found up to 3.9 million asbestos fiber structures per gram of eyeshadow in two separate eyeshadow palettes sold under the Jmkcoz brand. Amazon and eBay have since removed the two products. Of the 45 shades in the Jmkcoz 120 Colors Eyeshadow Palette, 40% contained asbestos fibers. 20% of the shades within the second 25-shade palette (Beauty Glazed Gorgeous Me Eye Shadow Tray Palette) were found to have asbestos.

04. Asbestos in Children’s Makeup

Asbestos in Children’s Makeup

No level of asbestos exposure is safe, though long-term exposure may increase the risk of developing illnesses such as asbestosis or malignant mesothelioma. A major point of concern is the presence of asbestos in children’s makeup. Children have thinner skin, making them more susceptible to health risks from harmful chemicals.

In 2015, asbestos was found in crime scene investigation toys and crayons. This was one of the first major asbestos-related events involving children’s products.

Within the last few years, several different children’s products have been found to contain asbestos, such as those sold at Claire’s and Justice. Kids’ makeup has been one of the biggest issues because it is frequently made with talc. Every product is not tested for asbestos, so there could be other contaminated products being marketed to children.

Why Is Asbestos in Children’s Makeup?

Retailers often have contracts with suppliers to create their makeup products. Despite the well-known dangers of asbestos, talc suppliers continue to deliver contaminated products. This includes suppliers in the United States and overseas.

EWG warns toy makeup kits are often made with cheap ingredients, which are more likely to contain asbestos. EWG’s Vice President for Healthy Living Science, Nneka Leiba, has voiced his concerns, stating profits are not as important as protecting children from a carcinogen such as asbestos.

05. Talc Regulations

Regulations for Cosmetics with Asbestos

The dangers of asbestos have been well-known since the 1960s. Awareness of the need for stricter talc regulations emerged in the late 1970s. Until recently, little progress has been made to establish federal legislation to ensure talc products are asbestos-free.

Defining Asbestos-Free Cosmetics

The United States is one of several countries without a full ban on asbestos. Lacking such a ban, low levels of asbestos use continue.

Products in the United States can be labeled “asbestos-free” if they contain up to one percent of the mineral. However, one percent of asbestos can still include hundreds of thousands of fibers. Multiple organizations, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Cancer Society assert no level of asbestos is safe.

Who Is Responsible for Cosmetic Safety?

The three primary organizations responsible for general asbestos safety include the EPA, OSHA and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

For cosmetics specifically, the FDA maintains responsibility. The FDA has been called into question for failing to ensure cosmetic safety. Cosmetic products and their ingredients aren’t required to undergo FDA approval and review. The FDA also does not strictly regulate proper labeling or require the disclosure of safety information.

The FDA does conduct product testing. However, there often needs to be a large asbestos event, such as the Claire’s recall, to warrant an investigation.

Cosmetic Talc and Asbestos Legislation

The events surrounding Johnson & Johnson baby powder and Claire’s makeup have sparked conversations with advocates and key stakeholders. Concerns surrounding federal legislation and the FDA’s practices, in particular, have led to recent calls for action.

Talc Cosmetic Regulations Timeline

  • 1938: The United States Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act was passed. This law allowed the FDA to oversee the safety of cosmetics, along with food, drugs and medical devices.
  • 1976: The Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrances Association (CTFA), now the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC), called for all talc-based cosmetic products in the United States to be free of detectable amounts of asbestos. Their attempts were unsuccessful.
  • February 2018: Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell proposed the Children’s Product Warning Label Act. This would require proper labeling of children’s products with testing to prove they are asbestos-free.
  • October 2019: The FDA issued a new Constituent Update warning against the use of contaminated talc cosmetics.
  • December 2019: Congressional hearings began to discuss talc cosmetic safety.
  • February 2020: The FDA plans to hold a public meeting to discuss testing for asbestos in talcum powder and talc cosmetics.

Advocates hope these actions will encourage stricter regulations for cosmetic testing. Proper testing may also require manufacturers to clearly label whether or not their product may contain trace levels of asbestos.

06. Asbestos Cosmetic Testing

Testing for Asbestos in Cosmetics

Asbestos fibers are microscopic and are not visible to the naked eye. Three of the most common methods used to test for asbestos include Phase Contrast Microscopy (PCM), Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM).

The EPA asserts TEM is the best method to use. TEM uses extreme magnification to conduct morphology, crystalline structure and elemental analysis. This method can identify asbestos fibers in the air and products such as makeup.

Stores such as Claire’s and Justice use labs certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to test their products. However, the organization does not necessarily use TEM testing. When labs use PCM or PLM methods, they may not pick up on low levels of asbestos. This could lead them to deem a product asbestos-free when there are still harmful amounts present.

07. Safety Precautions

Safety Precautions for Asbestos Cosmetics

Individuals should always be aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure and what products could contain the mineral. The FDA and EWG will occasionally issue warnings when there are concerns around consumer products.

The EWG asserts parents and guardians are entitled to make their own decisions regarding whether or not their children should use makeup. However, parents should exercise precautions when purchasing a talc-based product.

Steps to Using Safe Cosmetics

Precautions can be taken to protect children and adults from the dangers of asbestos-contaminated cosmetics, including:

  • Consider brands marked talc-free, phthalate-free and paraben-free
  • Keep in mind the lack of regulations and monitoring of cosmetics
  • Stay up to date on product recalls and consumer safety reports
  • Understand children have thinner skin than adults and are more vulnerable to harmful ingredients
  • Be cautious of powder cosmetics that are more likely to contain contaminated talc
  • Stop use immediately if a product’s safety is in question

Consumers should be aware of what ingredients are in the products they are using and understand not all ingredients are disclosed. If there is asbestos in a product and an individual has been exposed, symptoms of an asbestos illness could take years to develop. If symptoms of mesothelioma or another asbestos condition arise, it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible to help ensure an early diagnosis.

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