In a recent study, 3 cosmetic products sold by Claire’s Stores Inc. were found to contain asbestos. While the company denied the possibility of contamination, this incident was the second time in the past few months that Claire’s has been accused of putting teenage consumers at risk.
The study was conducted by U.S. PIRG, a public interest group consortium, and included 15 cosmetics that contain talc. These products were made by 4 companies, including Cover Girl, L’Oreal, and NYX Professional Makeup, in addition to Claire’s. Talc and asbestos occur together naturally, because they have a similar structure. Unlike talc, however, asbestos is a known carcinogen that causes the deadly cancer mesothelioma.
A Known Danger Ignored
On the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website, the fact that makeup products containing talc may also contain asbestos is mentioned as a possible hazard. The FDA states that contaminated talc must not be used in cosmetics, yet it was found in the eyeshadow, blush, and compact powder that were made by Claire’s. It would be dangerous to inhale these products, or use them on one’s skin. This hazard is why U.S. PIRG called for Claire’s to prove their products did not contain asbestos, or remove them from stores immediately.
In response, Claire’s called the tests “obsolete and unreliable.” Further, the company claimed that STAT, the laboratory that performed the tests, was “not certified to perform the type of testing necessary for talc-based products.” In their defense, Claire’s noted they used “Merck certified asbestos-free talc” which is also used by other companies in cosmetics.
Claire’s assertions are questionable, however, since STAT has been certified to do asbestos testing, and uses methods accepted by FDA. U.S. PIRG’s assessment came on the heels of tests that were conducted last year, in which several Claire’s products were found to contain asbestos. These cosmetics were removed from stores late in 2017. Claire’s gave refunds to consumers, while claiming its products were free of asbestos, and that the store would conduct additional tests.
Americans and Asbestos: Working toward a Ban
Asbestos was used for decades in dozens of various industries, including construction and shipbuilding as an insulator, and in brakes and other automobile parts. During the 1970s however, several studies proved the mineral caused the deadly lung cancer mesothelioma.
This research found that inhaled asbestos fibers could become lodged in the pleural lining around the lungs, causing tumors. Studies had been saying this for decades, and although the asbestos-related companies knew this fact, they chose to keep it a secret from their own employees and the public. The result? Decades’ worth of asbestos poisoning, and thousands of mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer deaths.
Mesothelioma often takes 20-50 years to develop, and is particularly difficult to detect. The respiratory problems associated with mesothelioma are often initially diagnosed as having other causes. While many companies ban products that contain asbestos, the U.S. is sadly not one of them.
Even though asbestos kills 12,000 to 15,000 Americans yearly, the chemical industry has fought (and lobbied) tirelessly to prevent such a ban from being enacted. And, now, even with all of the public knowledge about the danger of asbestos, we still manage to find it in kids’ makeup.
Keeping Asbestos Out of Kids’ Compacts
Sadly, Claire’s is not alone in being accused of selling contaminated products. Other studies have revealed asbestos in makeup manufactured by several cosmetics companies. These findings have led to call for stricter regulations on goods made for young consumers. U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) has proposed the Children’s Product Warning Label Act of 2018, requiring companies to label cosmetics for children, verifying that they do not contain asbestos. The manufacturers in question must do specific tests on these products, or prove the talc they used came from an asbestos-free source.
While this bill was introduced on February 7, it has not made progress since then. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been assessing the risks of asbestos use in current manufacturing practices. As consumers we must as why the question need even be asked, since asbestos is a proven carcinogen and has been for decades.
The answer is simple: EPA director Scott Pruitt and his ties to big business and industry have made EPA protections a farce, which includes stalling bans on obviously toxic substances such as asbestos. Both President Trump and Director Pruitt have shown an equal disregard for protecting the health and welfare of American workers and consumers. Now we can add children to that list.