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Over the weekend, a local ABC affiliate in Raleigh, North Carolina, reported that its investigative team had discovered asbestos in a brand of makeup sold at Justice Stores, a popular clothing chain for girls and tweens.
According to the report, the investigative team sent a sample of the retailer’s Just Shine Shimmer Powder to a laboratory at the Scientific Analytical Institute in Greensboro. The lab found asbestos in the powder-based cosmetic, which is intended for use on and around the face. The lab also found four separate heavy metals in the makeup, which can also lead to severe health issues.
Director of Research and Analytical Services Sean Fitzgerald called the discovery alarming, adding about the asbestos found in the powder, “I would treat it like a deadly poison, because it is.”
This is not the first time that products made for children have been found to contain asbestos. In 2015, asbestos was found in crayons and the “fingerprint powder” included in toy crime kits. Earlier this year, asbestos was found to have caused a higher incidence of mesothelioma in doll factory workers, leading to the likelihood of at least some of that asbestos finding its way into the dolls themselves – and eventually into the hands of children.
The danger of asbestos lies in its ability to cause mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer. The latency period for asbestos can be anywhere from 10 – 50 years, meaning that children who are being exposed to asbestos in products like makeup, crayons, and toys may not develop symptoms until middle age.
"The pure carelessness of asbestos being found in any makeup, let alone makeup geared towards tweens and teens makes my blood boil,” said Heather Von St. James, a mesothelioma survivor and mother to a 12-year-old daughter. “This is just another reason in a very long line of reasons for the need to once and for all ban asbestos.”
“As the mother of a child who shops at Justice and someone who could have potentially bought this product, it makes me beyond angry,” Heather added. “We need better regulations for products so we don't have to worry that the desire to wear highlighter puts your life in danger.”
Fitzgerald said that the most likely scenario for how the asbestos came to be in Just Shine Shimmer Powder is through talc, a commonly used ingredient in cosmetics. Although regulation of talc-based cosmetics falls under the authority of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the FDA handles issues on a product-by-product basis. In a series of tests conducted in 2009 – 2010, the federal agency found no asbestos across 34 makeup samples it tested, although this most recent case may indicate a need for ongoing tests to ensure the continued safety of cosmetics users.
It has been long known that asbestos in talc powder can be dangerous to health. Both asbestos and talc are naturally occurring magnesium-silicate minerals, and they are often found near each other in natural deposits. As such, it can be difficult to remove asbestos from talc that is used for cosmetics and other purposes.
Since the story broke on Sunday, Justice has responded by pulling all of its Just Shine Shimmer Powder products from its stores and website. They are also accepting returns of the cosmetic and will refund customers the full purchase price.