Before the cancer risks of asbestos were fully understood, the toxic mineral was used in everything manufacturers could think of: toothpaste, cigarette filters, and the fake snow that fell during the filming of The Wizard of Oz.
Now, it’s well understood that asbestos can be extremely dangerous once it enters the body. More than 3,000 Americans each year are diagnosed with a deadly cancer known as mesothelioma, which is caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos.
By the late 1970s, the dangers of asbestos were finally publicized, and the toxic mineral started to be phased out of use. Sadly, however, asbestos is still not banned in America, and millions of tons still reside in buildings and products spread throughout the country.
Even worse, some asbestos-containing items are still being shipped into the country today.
5 Items That Contain Asbestos
1. Children’s Makeup
Over the last several years, makeup marketed to children and teenagers has tested positive for asbestos.
Popular vendors like Claire’s and Justice have had to pull multiple products, including a makeup kit featuring JoJo Siwa, the teenage celebrity who became famous on the reality-TV show series Dance Moms.
Using products like blush and eyeshadow that are contaminated by asbestos on sensitive areas of the body puts children at a completely unacceptable level of risk.
Recent lab tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG) detected high levels of asbestos in a princess-themed makeup kit available on eBay and Amazon. 4 million asbestos fibers per gram of eyeshadow.
How does asbestos wind up in makeup for teens?
One of the key ingredients in many cosmetics is a mineral called talc. It’s very common for asbestos and talc to exist together underground. When companies mine for talc, it’s almost impossible to ensure there is no asbestos present.
In processing, it’s very difficult to screen raw talc to make sure it is free of carcinogens, especially since companies don’t have to use the most accurate testing methods to detect asbestos in talc.
Hopefully, companies will start doing more about talc safety, especially with regard to cosmetics. After all, children’s makeup is hardly the only talc product with an asbestos problem.
2. Johnsons’ Baby Powder
After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detected asbestos in Johnsons’ Baby Powder, the manufacturer immediately recalled more than 33,000 bottles of the product. Johnson & Johnson (J&J), who had sold its talc-based baby powder for more than a century, disputed the findings.
Even so, J&J ended sales of talc baby powder in North America in 2020. Regarding the reasons for their decision, the company cited changes in consumer preference, as if the widespread public outcry about talc safety is simply a matter of taste.
In 2020, after a year-long sampling assignment, the FDA announced that 9 of 52 cosmetic talc products tested positive for asbestos. That’s nearly 20%.
J&J faces more than 20,000 lawsuits from people who say that the company’s talc-based products caused the development of their cancer. The number of talcum powder lawsuits has only increased since an exposé from Reuters shed light on J&J’s talc-asbestos coverup.
This is a public health issue, not a public relations issue.
3. Imported Brakes
Asbestos was used in all sorts of high-friction products because it was extremely durable and heat-resistant. For years, aircraft and automotive brakes contained asbestos. After heavy use, mechanics would have to change out the deteriorated brakes for new ones.
It was an extremely dangerous job because of the high chance of inhaling asbestos fibers that broke off from the degraded brake as it was removed and replaced.
This is why aircraft and automotive mechanics are known as high-risk occupations for asbestos exposure.
Although brakes and other asbestos automotive products are no longer made in the United States, they are still manufactured in countries with laxer public health regulations. Even today, people in America can still purchase these brakes online, ordering them without knowing they contain asbestos.
According to the latest risk assessment from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these products continue to pose an unreasonable cancer risk posed to consumers. While the danger is clear, the agency admitted that an unknown number of such asbestos-containing items are imported into the country each year.
Asbestos has been discovered in certain brands of crayons multiple times over the past 20 years.
In the most recent example, the consumer safety watchdog U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) announced that they detected asbestos Playskool brand crayons purchased at a Dollar Tree.
Similar to makeup and baby powder, talc is often an ingredient in crayons. The talc is contaminated with asbestos, and it makes its way undetected into the hands of kids.
Crayons are not a cosmetic to be used on the body, but they still present a danger.
No toy or school supply should be toxic. Children put toys in their mouth, and crayons create dust which lingers in the bottom of the box, classrooms, and play areas at home. If that dust contains asbestos, it creates a major health hazard.
5. Materials in Homes and Workplaces
Few people are aware of just how widespread the use of asbestos in its time. Virtually every part of buildings built before 1980 can have asbestos lurking inside the walls, floors, and ceilings.
In 2019, Philadelphia schools were closed for months after asbestos was discovered. It had been there for years, and one teacher who was diagnosed with mesothelioma remembered the white flaky powder coming off the pipes in her classroom.
Asbestos is present in places you would never expect: from crayons, to brakes, to the millions of tons that still exist in American homes, schools, and workplaces.
It’s important to know what to do when you discover asbestos in order to keep everyone around you safe. Learn more about asbestos, how it makes people sick, and how they can fight back by taking legal action.
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