FDA Finds Asbestos in Beauty Plus Products, Issues Voluntary Recall

EWG: More Oversight Needed for Cosmetics Made with Talc
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For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration has issued a safety alert urging consumers to stop using cosmetics from Beauty Plus, after the agency found the deadly carcinogen asbestos in at least four different talc-based products.

Asbestos was found in the products – bronzer, shimmer bronzer, a beauty palette and a matte blush — as part of the FDA’s ongoing testing of beauty products. This is the second time Beauty Plus has been the subject of a voluntary recall due to asbestos.

In May, the FDA warned consumers not to use two products: Claire’s JoJo Siwa Makeup Set and Beauty Plus Global Effects Palette 2, both made with talc.

“It is troubling to think how many people have used talc-based cosmetics products potentially contaminated with asbestos, when inhaling even the smallest amount can cause cancer later in life,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “While consumers should be both alarmed and outraged, it’s hardly a surprise, considering the federal law regulating the cosmetics industry has not been updated since 1938.”

“We urge consumers to heed the FDA’s alert and avoid these products, and we hope members of Congress will finally recognize the current system, which has allowed the cosmetics industry to operate beyond the reach of FDA’s authority, must end,” added Faber

Geologically, talc and asbestos can be formed from the same parent rock. In many regions, talc deposits are contaminated with asbestos fibers. There is no safe level of exposure to any type of asbestos fiber, which can lodge deep in the lungs and cause mesothelioma or other fatal diseases decades after exposure.

A bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders are pushing sweeping cosmetics reform legislation that could go a long way toward fixing the problem

Additionally, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) has introduced legislation that would require warning labels on cosmetics that could contain asbestos and are marketed to children.

In March, the House held an oversight hearing looking into asbestos-contaminated cosmetics following earlier FDA tests that found asbestos in three talc-based cosmetics products sold by Claire’s. Faber testified before the committee, warning that there are thousands of talc-based personal care products that could be contaminated with asbestos.

“EWG has found more than 2,000 cosmetics and other personal care products that contain talc, including more than 1,000 loose powders or pressed powders that pose a risk of being inhaled,” said Faber. “Even small amounts of asbestos in talc can cause mesothelioma and other deadly diseases, many years after exposure.”

The 2,119 talc-based products EWG identified are included in the group’s Skin Deep® online database. Products with talc represent about one in 12 of those in the database that were on the market in the past three years.

Talc-Based Products in EWG’s Skin Deep® Database

Product form Products with talc
Liquids, soaps and other solids 927
Loose powder 123
Pressed powder 1,051
Aerosol spray 18
Total with talc 2,119

Source: EWG, from Skin Deep consumer products database

Asbestos is one of the most dangerous substances on Earth. From federal mortality data, EWG Action Fund estimated that up to 15,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-triggered diseases, including mesothelioma and asbestosis. Last year, an international peer-reviewed study found the annual death toll from asbestos exposure may be much higher – nearly 40,000 Americans a year, and more than 255,000 a year worldwide.

No law prohibits the presence of asbestos in cosmetics. Asbestos has been banned by more than 50 nations, but its use remains legal in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration encourages companies to carefully select talc mines to avoid asbestos contamination, but it does not have the power to regulate products that contain talc.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.