Inhalation of even the smallest amount of asbestos in talc can cause mesothelioma and other fatal diseases which can occur even many years after exposure. But almost 15 percent of talc-based cosmetic products that were analyzed in a recent study contain asbestos.
Screening is inadequate
An advocacy nonprofit, Environmental Working Group, commissioned the study which was published in the journal Environmental Health Insights on Nov. 25. EWG concluded that the cosmetic industry used inadequate methods to screen talc supplies. Compared to electron microscopy, according to EWG, the industry’s voluntary method was not sufficiently sensitive for screening for asbestos.
The Scientific Analytica Institute conducted the tests and used electron microscopy for its analysis. Twenty-one samples of powder cosmetics were tested including eye shadow, foundation, blush, face, and body powders. The tests also repeatedly found asbestos in talc products marketed to children.
Over 2,000 personal care products containing talc were identified on the EWG database. These include over 1,000 loose or pressed products that pose a risk of inhalation.
Cosmetics often contain talc as a filler, to improve texture or for moisture absorption. Talc and asbestos may be formed in the same rocks mined for cosmetic and industrial use.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require testing cosmetics for asbestos. The FDA just encourages companies to carefully select talc mines to avoid asbestos contamination.
The extent of harm depends on how much talc was inhaled and the amount that was contaminated with asbestos. But only one asbestos fiber lodged in the lungs can cause mesothelioma decades later, according to an EWG senior scientist.
Asbestos exposure has links to asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung and ovarian cancer. The EWG Action Fund, utilizing federal data, estimates that up to 15,000 people in this country die each year from diseases trigged by asbestos.
The Scientific Analytical Institute said that it is essential for the FDA to develop a stringent method for screening talc in personal care products. It said that that the cosmetics industry should be required to utilize the precise methods existing for testing care products for asbestos.
Johnson & Johnson announced in May that it was ending the sale of its talc-based baby powder in this country and Canada. Thousands of people filed lawsuits against that company charging that its product caused cancer.
An attorney can help obtain compensation for victims of asbestos-related illnesses. They can obtain evidence and pursue their rights in court.