The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found by using electron microscopy, the cosmetic industry methods of screening talc for asbestos are lacking. Of the myriad cosmetics tested by the Scientific Analytical Institute (SAI), nearly 15% showed the presence of asbestos.
Methods of screening talc for asbestos are lacking
Incredibly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require testing for asbestos in talc. Though it may be “only” in trace levels there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
Sean Fitzgerald, who leads the SAI based in Greensboro, NC, said, “It is critical that the FDA develop a rigorous screening method for talc used in personal care products. The lab repeatedly finds asbestos in products made with talc, including cosmetics marketed to children. Last year several children’s cosmetic products at Claire’s and Justice were found to contain asbestos. This includes products beyond cosmetics: children’s toys, crayons, chewing gum, and feminine hygiene as a few samples. It’s outrageous that a precise method for testing personal care products for the presence of asbestos exists, but the cosmetics industry isn’t required to use it.”
Why is asbestos often found in talc?
Rather than perform rigorous testing to verify there is no asbestos, the government promotes careful selection of mines to avoid asbestos contamination.
The talc and asbestos are often mined in close proximity and for industrial, cosmetic and a wide variety of other uses. This leads to potential intertwining in veins and a high possibility of cross-contamination.
Why is asbestos a problem?
Science confirms there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. The fibers contained in the asbestos are released into the air when the material holding them is disturbed. Inhaling these fibers can lead to serious diseases, such as lung and ovarian cancer, asbestosis, and the deadly mesothelioma. Talc products are often distributed as loose powders, a sure way to allow inhalation to anyone using them or in the vicinity.
Approximately 15,000 Americans die each year because of exposure to asbestos according to Scott Faber, Senior Vice President of the Environmental Working Group.
In March of 2019, Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Jane Schakowsky (D-IL), introduced The Children’s Product Warning Label Act. This act required products marketed to children have a warning label declaring the product was not evaluated for asbestos content. To avoid the label, the product would require a written certification from the HHS Secretary that the product is from an asbestos-free mine and include proof to the FDA that the product is asbestos-free through testing by an electron microscopy method. At this time, there has been no action on the bill.
No other bills to increase testing for asbestos in talc products are pending.