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Tween chain Claire’s Stores Inc. is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with many wondering if the investigation into asbestos in some makeup products has led to the company’s demise.
The story of asbestos in Claire’s products first broke in December after the Scientific Analytical Institute (SAI), a private laboratory, tested 17 products from 9 different Claire’s stores across the country. The tests revealed high amounts of asbestos in a variety of the products including blush, eye shadow, and compact powder. All of these products contained talc, which has been found to be contaminated with asbestos on a number of occasions because of the deposits’ natural proximity.
At the time, Claire’s pulled the products off its shelves out of caution and had some testing done on its own. They later released a statement that upon further testing, they found no evidence of asbestos in any of their products.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) conducted another test on 15 makeup products that contained talc from an approved source, with four of these products from Claire’s. The president of PIRG, Faye Park, explained in an interview, "Given that we know that those products in December tested positive for asbestos, but Claire's said that they weren't, we thought it was prudent to go ahead and do some additional testing." The non-profit research group found high levels of asbestos in three of the four makeup products.
Claire’s has denied all reports claiming asbestos was found in their makeup, stating that the testing done by the PIRG is unreliable at best. In the company’s statement, they further explained, "All our powder-based cosmetics use the same base formulation, utilizing Merck certified asbestos-free talc, which is the same talc used in other well-known cosmetic brands."
Even with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulations around testing for asbestos in talc and other consumer goods, Claire’s is not the first company to face accusations of contaminated products. Johnson & Johnson is currently facing numerous lawsuits brought against its talcum powder products after consumers have faced ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Other children’s products have also been found to contain asbestos, including crayons and fingerprint crime scene kits.
At this time, Claire’s has not removed anymore products from its shelves and continues to assure consumers that they stand behind their products as safe and asbestos free.
Bloomberg reports the company is facing $2 billion in debt and is preparing to turn the company over to its lenders. It’s unclear how much these asbestos reports have impacted the company’s profits in recent months.