New Study Highlights Risk of Asbestos Contamination in Talc-Based Cosmetic Products

Despite increasing awareness about the serious health risks associated with exposure to asbestos and growing concerns about the potential for talc mined for use in consumer products to be tainted with cancer-causing asbestos, a new study indicates that 14% of talc-based cosmetic products tested for the presence of asbestos contained toxic asbestos particles, even one product specifically marketed to children. Asbestos is a carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer in humans, namely an aggressive type of cancer called mesothelioma, and there is no level of exposure to asbestos that is considered safe. If you or a loved one was diagnosed with cancer after using a talc-based cosmetic product or beauty product, you are not alone. Contact Consumer Safety Watch as soon as possible to discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the product manufacturing company.

Talc and Asbestos Exposure

Talc is a soft mineral substance that for decades has been added to a variety of beauty and personal care products, including blushes, eye shadows, foundations, and face and body powders. As a powder, talc is known for its ability to absorb moisture, reduce friction and minimize odors. It is also commonly used in cosmetic and beauty products to improve the feel and texture of the products, prevent caking and make makeup opaque.

Asbestos is the name used for six naturally occurring fibrous minerals known for their flexibility, durability, strength, resistance to heat and chemicals, and other properties that make them valuable for commercial and industrial applications. Unfortunately, exposure to asbestos is linked to an increased risk of mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, ovarian cancer and other types of cancer. Despite restrictions on its use, asbestos is still used today in automotive parts, construction materials, fertilizers and other products. It can also be found in 30 million homes and is present as a contaminant in consumer products, including makeup and children’s toys.

Guidelines for “Cosmetic Talc” Purity

In 1976, the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA) established new guidelines for the safe use of talc in cosmetics, to differentiate from industrial uses, including non-detection of asbestos. Unfortunately, because talc and asbestos occur naturally together in the earth, it is not uncommon for talc deposits used in the manufacture of products sold in the U.S. to be unknowingly contaminated with asbestos particles. And the FDA does not require mandatory testing of talc supplies, which means consumers who use talc-based cosmetic products may be at risk for exposure to cancer-causing asbestos particles without their knowledge.

Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Recall

Just last year, Johnson & Johnson, one of the most trusted brands in America, removed its signature Baby Powder from the market after FDA testing found that a bottle of the powder purchased from an online retailer was contaminated with chrysotile asbestos. Unfortunately, many talc-based cosmetic products that are still on the market in the U.S. contain asbestos-tainted talc, yet consumers are largely unaware of the risk.

Inadequate Regulation and Testing for Cosmetic Products

The problem with cosmetics and personal care products is that these products are not subject to the same rigorous testing as pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices. The FDA states on its website that the law “does not require cosmetic products and ingredients, other than color additives, to have FDA approval before they go on the market.” And despite the serious potential risk to consumers, the FDA does not have the authority to issue mandatory product recalls for these products.

“The lack of regulation and adequate testing of talc-containing personal care products in the U.S. has resulted in the contamination of cosmetics with asbestos,” state the researchers in this new study, published last month in the medical journal Environmental Health Insights. “As such, the true exposure of consumers to asbestos is poorly characterized and likely underestimated.” In the study, the researchers analyzed 21 talc-based products purchased from retail stores in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, California and from one online retailer. They found that three of the 21 powder-based cosmetic products were contaminated with amphibole asbestos – two eye shadow palettes and one toy makeup kit specifically marketed for use by children.

Talc-Based Cosmetics an “Overlooked” Source of Asbestos Exposure

There are still thousands of talc-based cosmetics and personal care products available for consumer use in the U.S. A recent survey of the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database identified more than 2,000 personal care products sold between 2018 and 2020 that contain talc. While some of these products are sold in cream or liquid form, 57% are powders that pose an increased risk of asbestos inhalation during use. Earlier this year, the FDA released a final report of the agency’s year-long analysis of certain talc-containing cosmetic products. Of the 52 product samples tested by the FDA, nine were found to be contaminated with asbestos, which means these products may put consumers at risk for cancer. “The presence of asbestos found in products demonstrates the urgency to revise cosmetics policy,” the researchers warn in this new study. “Further, talc-based cosmetics may be an overlooked and difficult to characterize source of exposure to asbestos, a known carcinogen.”