Federal Regulators Release New Asbestos Testing Recommendations for Talc-Based Cosmetics

Acknowledging the “long-recognized shortcomings” of existing protocols to screen cosmetic talc products for asbestos, a known carcinogen linked to mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and other potentially life-threatening cancers, federal health regulators have issued new recommendations for asbestos testing by the cosmetics industry. The asbestos testing recommendations were outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this month, in a white paper containing the scientific opinions of the Interagency Working Group on Asbestos in Consumer Products (IWGACP), a group tasked with developing standardized testing methods for asbestos and other contaminants that could affect the safety of cosmetic products. If you or someone you love has been adversely affected by asbestos-contaminated talc in talcum powder or another potentially toxic consumer product, contact Consumer Safety Watch today.

Talc Products Contaminated with Cancer-Causing Asbestos

In an effort to protect consumer health and safety, the FDA has been sampling and testing cosmetics containing talc, a mineral widely used in personal care products like Johnson & Johnson’s signature talcum powder, to detect traces of asbestos. Because talc and asbestos naturally occur close to one another in the earth, it is not uncommon for talc deposits to be contaminated with asbestos and for the carcinogen to make its way into raw talc. And unless cosmetics manufacturers are required to use the most effective asbestos testing methods, finished powders can easily be contaminated with asbestos without consumers having any idea that they could be exposed to the carcinogen.

In October 2019, Johnson & Johnson, one of the most trusted brands in America, was forced to recall 33,000 bottles of its talc-based Baby Powder, after the FDA found trace amounts of asbestos in a bottle purchased from an online retailer. In May 2020, the company announced that it would no longer sell its trademark talcum powder in the United States or Canada. In addition to Johnson & Johnson’s high-profile Baby Powder recall, various other cosmetic products have been recalled due to asbestos contamination, including certain children’s makeup sets sold by Claire’s. Despite these potential health risks, talc is still used in many cosmetic products, and in November 2020, a study found that 14% of talc-containing cosmetics tested by the Environmental Working Group also contained asbestos.

Asbestos Testing Methods May Not Detect Asbestos

Recent concerns about the possible presence of asbestos in talcum powder and other widely used personal care products has shined a light on the notoriously unregulated cosmetics industry. Talc is used in many cosmetic products, to prevent caking, absorb moisture, or improve the feel of products like blush and face powders. And while measures for detecting asbestos in cosmetics and other products exist, the current standard for asbestos testing is far from perfect. In 2018, the FDA created the Interagency Working Group on Asbestos in Consumer Products to aid in the development of standardized testing methods for asbestos and other substances of concern in talc that could potentially harm consumers. The FDA released the IWGACP’s scientific opinions related to the detection of asbestos in talc-containing cosmetic products in a white paper published on January 13, 2022.

“We have become aware that methods employed by some industry members to test for asbestos in talc-containing cosmetic products may not always detect the presence of asbestos,” said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in a press release announcing the publication of the white paper. According to the FDA, “[T]he [asbestos testing] method voluntarily adopted by the cosmetics industry in 1976, Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA) J4–1, relies on Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) if amphibole minerals are first detected by X-ray diffraction. However, recent testing of cosmetics using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) has revealed the presence of asbestos fibers in samples that had negative findings for the same products using PLM.” Given the unreliable nature of the currently accepted methods of testing talc-based products, the IWGACP is instead recommending the use of TEM along with PLM.

Lawsuits Allege Cancer, Other Injuries from Asbestos-Contaminated Talc

Talcum powders and other talc-based personal care products and cosmetics are used by millions of people across the country, many of whom may now be facing a cancer diagnosis or other serious health problems after being unwittingly exposed to asbestos. Johnson & Johnson alone currently faces more than 37,000 lawsuits filed by former talcum powder users who claim that contaminated talc caused them to develop mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and other serious side effects from asbestos exposure. If you or someone you know has been adversely affected by tainted talcum powder or a talc-based cosmetic product, do not hesitate to speak to a talcum powder cancer attorney about your legal options. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical costs, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other losses, which you may be able to recover through a talcum powder injury lawsuit. Contact Consumer Safety Watch today to find out how we can help.

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