Asbestos, the carcinogenic mineral known to be the leading cause of mesothelioma, has recently been identified as a contaminant in some children’s cosmetic products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning of the risks of these products and recommended that people not use them. The company, Claire’s, has since issued a voluntary recall of those products.
Child Makeup Products Contain Asbestos
The FDA announced in March that several makeup products made for kids tested positive for asbestos. The tests included three products from the accessories store Claire’s and one from the store known as Justice.
The FDA reported that it acted on information from a 2017 report of asbestos in certain products made for children. The agency began an independent analysis that recently concluded and confirmed the contamination of asbestos in these cosmetics.
Asbestos and Cancer
Asbestos is a natural mineral that was used for decades in industries like shipbuilding and construction. With a lot of unique properties, it was useful for applications that required fire and heat resistance and lightweight strength. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the researchers confirmed the link between asbestos and serious illness.
Exposure to the tiny fibers of asbestos can lead to internal damage that triggers lung cancer or mesothelioma. Any level of exposure, including small amounts in products like cosmetics, is considered unsafe and can contribute to the risk of developing cancer.
The reason that asbestos may show up in cosmetic products is that it is sometimes found contaminating sources of talc. Talc is the mineral that makes up talcum powder, a material used in nearly every type of cosmetic.
Recalls of Claire’s Products
The company Justice responded to the test results on its one product found to contain asbestos by saying that it had already been recalled. Claire’s denied the accuracy of the results, claiming there were errors in the tests and that they believe their products are safe. But, the company still decided to voluntarily recall the products:
- Batch and lot numbers 08/17 of Claire’s Eye Shadows
- Batch and lot numbers 07/15 of Claire’s Compact Powder
- Batch and lot numbers 04/17 of Claire’s Contour Palette
The FDA has recommended these products not be used. Claire’s has pulled them from the shelves and asks consumers to return any they have to stores for a refund.
FDA Hopes to Improve Regulation of Cosmetics Safety
Currently there is no law in place that requires companies like Claire’s to test their products for safety. The FDA has no authority to regulate the safety of these products, but it does conduct tests and issue recommendations. The agency is pushing to update the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which has not changed since 1938. The FDA hopes changes to the law will allow the FDA to approve cosmetics before they can be sold.
Some lawmakers are also pushing for greater oversight of cosmetics. Democratic representative Debbie Dingell, a democrat from Michigan, introduced a bill after the first tests found asbestos in Claire’s products back in 2017. The bill, called the Children’s Product Warning Act of 2018 would require warnings that products have not been tested for safety or asbestos contamination, unless specific testing requirements have been met.
Until that bill becomes law, parents need to be aware that children’s products may contain harmful asbestos. Without the oversight of the FDA, it can be difficult to know what products are safe and which should be avoided, but new legislation may change that.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019, March 5). Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., and Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, on tests confirming a 2017 finding of asbestos contamination in certain cosmetic products and new steps that FDA is pursuing to improve cosmetics safety.
Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm632736.htm
- H.R. 4964 — 115th Congress. (2019, March 13) Children’s Product Warning Label Act of 2018. Retrieved from
Retrieved from: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr4964