Justice Stores, a popular clothing chain that targets young girls and tweens, was recently found to be selling a makeup that contains trace amounts of the deadly carcinogen asbestos. Justice, formerly known under the name Limited Too, Inc. and Too, Inc., rebranded in 2006 after it became a subsidiary of Ascena Retail Group.
WTVD (ABC11), the local ABC affiliate in Greensboro, NC’s investigation “I-Team” tested several samples of makeup specifically made, marketed, and sold to young girls at Justice Stores. The ABC team hired Scientific Analytical Institute (SAI) – a Greensboro-based research company – to test the makeup in the lab. The original goal, according to the ABC11 investigation team, was simply to “see what’s in the makeup that’s not listed as an ingredient.”
“Just Shine Shimmer Powder,” a specific teen makeup, is the product the investigation team found to have asbestos in it. Sean Fitzgerald, the Director of Research and Analytical Services at SAI and his lab team discovered 4 heavy metals in the makeup in addition to asbestos. In an interview with WTVD, Fitzgerald remarks on these asbestos findings: “I would treat it like a deadly poison, because it is.”
Asbestos – A Notorious Killer and Worldwide Menace
The dangerous risks associated with the asbestos mineral have been long known across the globe and in the United States. American health organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institute of Health (NIH), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in addition to the World Health Organization (WHO), have all recognized asbestos as a deadly carcinogen known to cause cancer, asbestos-related disease, and mesothelioma (a cancer caused exclusively by asbestos).
Asbestos’s death toll is downright frightening. It’s estimated that in the U.S. alone, roughly 12,000-15,000 people die annually from asbestos. Across the globe, that annual death toll balloons to over 107,000. It all starts with exposure to asbestos. There is no safe level of exposure to any form of asbestos, and once the mineral’s fibers are released into the air and breathed in, they can become lodged in the lungs and start forming a slow-developing, but incredibly deadly and incurable cancer.
Asbestos is mined in places like Russia and Brazil and exported to the United States at the volume of 1,000 metric tons annually. But mining of asbestos isn’t the only way it enters American and global commerce. Talc, another mineral mined for a number of products such as baby powder, cosmetics, and facial powders, among others, is often found to naturally coexist with asbestos within the earth. Given this coexistence, talc is often contaminated by asbestos. This is likely the case with the “Just Shine Shimmer Powder” that was sold at Justice Clothes.
“The problem is, it’s not necessarily the manufacturer – there was no interest to put this in the talc – but they shouldn’t have been using that reserve, because they should’ve tested it and known that that talc source was contaminated with asbestos.”
How Could We Allow Our Kids to Be Exposed?
So, what could be worse than our own children being exposed to this known deadly carcinogen? According to Fitzgerald: well, nothing.
“In this powder designed for children, they could die an untimely death in their 30s and 40s because of the exposure to asbestos in this product,” Fitzgerald notes. Mesothelioma often takes 20-50 years to develop, so children that use the product now or have used it recently may not develop the cancer until they are adults.
"Fibers like this get into your breathing zone, and when you inhale, these fibers can get into the lung and go to the very bottom of the lung, and that is exactly where you have the greatest likelihood of asbestos to cause disease. Children should not be allowed to breathe it. If a 10-year-old inhaled this fiber today, when he's 50 years old, it's still there.”
Worse, asbestos wasn’t the only secret “Just Shine Shimmer Powder” was harboring. According to the lab results, the makeup powder also contained 4 heavy metals known to be dangerous: barium, lead, chromium, and selenium. As Fitzgerald cautions, “The more lead you have in your system, the more negative health effects you’re going to have. Any amount of lead can be absorbed through the skin and go into your blood, and contribute to the overall poisoning of your blood.”
‘Justice’ Moves Quickly, but Is It Quick Enough?
This past Friday, July 14, after the news became public, the “Just Shine Shimmer Powder” was listed as “Out of Stock” on Justice’s online store. It is now listed as “do not sell”; the company has stopped all sales of this product. According to a Justice spokesperson who committed a statement to WTVD, the ABC affiliate that conducted the initial investigation:
“Justice is committed to the safety and integrity of our products. Upon receiving the inquiry from WTVD, we immediately began independent investigation. We cannot speculate regarding the matter until we have more information. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, we have stopped the sale of this product while we investigate.”
Still, the product has yet to be listed on the store’s official recalls section.
Time, of course, will be the ultimate determinant. Who will be found to be negatively affected and what the clothing franchise chooses to does next is not yet known. But let us hope that, at the very least, anybody who was harmed or injured by this cosmetic product receives true justice through the U.S. court system.