News ID: 254981
Published: 1207 GMT June 29, 2019

What's in your kids' makeup? Asbestos recalls prompt regulation questions

What's in your kids' makeup?  Asbestos recalls prompt regulation questions

Claire’s Stores Inc., an international accessories and cosmetics retailer tailored to kids and teens, has a motto: “We make memories”.

But its customers may have been alarmed after asbestos, a cancer-causing material that can stay in the body for many years, was found in several of Claire’s makeup products in the US, according to the Guardian.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety alert warning people to stop using a Claire’s Jojo Siwa Makeup Set, as well as a contouring palette sold by Beauty Plus Global because the products had tested positive for asbestos.

Both companies had issued a voluntary recall of the products at the end of May.

The June warning came just two months after the FDA flagged three other Claire’s products – an eye shadow, compact powder and contour palette – for asbestos. The agency issued a safety warning for consumers after, it said, Claire’s initially refused to recall the products in question.

“Claire’s stands behind the safety of our products,” the company said in an emailed statement to the Guardian. “All our cosmetic products are reviewed by two cosmetic safety assessors and undergo rigorous analysis and assessment before reaching consumers.” The company also began replacing talc with a cosmetic-grade mica in all its products last year.

Claire’s isn’t the only tween company with an asbestos problem on its hands. The FDA’s March warning also confirmed a product called Just Shine Shimmer Powder, sold by youth-focused retailer Justice, also tested positive for asbestos. Justice had recalled the asbestos-tainted product, along with seven other suspect items, in 2017 after product testing commissioned by a North Carolina news outlet found asbestos and heavy metals.

Why does asbestos keep turning up in kids’ makeup?

Asbestos is a group of six minerals that occur naturally in the earth. It is often in close proximity to deposits of talc, which is ground into talcum powder to make a range of cosmetics and personal care products, like baby powder, blush, eye shadow, foundation and more. During mining, talc can be contaminated with asbestos, which can then potentially end up in consumer products.

Firms say they have strong quality controls to identify it.

Environmental health advocates say a lack of stronger regulation in the cosmetics industry is the real issue. “It is appalling that it’s perfectly legal to sell kids makeup in this country contaminated with asbestos – a known human carcinogen,” Janet Nudelman, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, said via email. “I don’t know what’s worse – asbestos in kids’ products or the fact that the FDA can’t do anything about it.”

There are no laws in the United States that require manufacturers to test the safety of cosmetics ingredients before going to market. The FDA oversees cosmetics and personal care products, but has limited authority over manufacturers. The agency cannot force companies to recall products found to be dangerous, and companies are not required to share safety information with the FDA.

Asbestos is only banned for certain uses in the United States. The EPA is currently doing a risk evaluation on asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Cosmetics contamination is not an area the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently looking at under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) evaluation.

Health advocates and the FDA say the extent of asbestos contamination in cosmetics remains unknown. While recent reports have been focused on children’s cosmetics, asbestos could potentially be present in any product with talc.

“We have absolutely no idea how often asbestos is found in cosmetics containing talc,” said Nudelman, who is also director of program and policy of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, a science-based policy and advocacy group. She advised consumers to avoid using products with talc unless it is known to be asbestos-free, and warned that no talc products should be used in the pelvic area because of links to ovarian cancer.

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