Warning: Your cosmetics may contain asbestos

Do your powdered cosmetics contain talcum powder? If so, they may contain asbestos — and that could be deadly. According to the federal government, there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, which is a naturally occurring fiber that is often mined near talc mines.

Asbestos can cause a number of serious health problems, including the fatal lung cancer mesothelioma. An analysis of federal mortality data found that as many as 15,000 Americans die every year from diseases caused by asbestos.

The FDA has been looking into whether common products containing talc are likely to contain asbestos. This issue arose partly after thousands of lawsuits were filed against Johnson & Johnson. J&J’s baby powder and other talc products allegedly contain asbestos and may have sickened thousands of regular users. Ovarian cancer was the main illness reported in connection to J&J talc products.

Therefore, the FDA hired AMA Analytical Services, Inc., a leading laboratory for testing talc for asbestos contamination, in September 2018. The goal was to test popular products that contain talc for the presence of asbestos.

The results are now in, with nine of 52 cosmetics products evaluated testing positive for asbestos. That’s almost 20%.

“A .200 batting average in baseball is borderline bad, but it’s downright deplorable when it comes to asbestos in cosmetics,” said a spokesperson for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.

House of Representatives takes up landmark legislation

Now, a new bill is making its way through the House that would require action on the part of cosmetics companies. In the case of talc-based cosmetics marketed to children, the manufacturers would have to use the same methodology that was employed by AMA Analytical Services to determine if their products contained asbestos.

The law would require the products to be proven asbestos-free before they could be sold. Any that could not be proven asbestos-free would be forced to carry a warning label. The bill is before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Meanwhile, the FDA plans to have AMA Analytical Services test more products in 2020. It has collected 50 more popular cosmetics to be analyzed.

The sad fact about asbestos is that it continues to be sold despite efforts at legislation and regulation. It may be that the only way manufacturers will stop using the deadly fiber is if they are hit with significant product liability lawsuits.

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