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Asbestos Found In Cosmetics

March 15, 2019

Asbestos Found In Cosmetics

There’s rarely a month that passes without a story about asbestos featuring somewhere in the UK media. Generally, if it’s not a piece relating to the unpleasant legacy of asbestos-related illness, it will surround the discovery of asbestos in a building or as an unwanted find in part of a construction or infrastructure project.

It is commonplace that as buildings come towards the end of their life cycle and undergo redevelopment, expansion or refurbishment the historical use of asbestos becomes apparent and often, and when it does, the press are rightly quick to report on its presence, mainly if the find involves any location that might result in a public health risk.

This month, however, asbestos has been in the headlines due to its presence in an industry that most would consider a world away from construction and manufacturing.

This month retail giant Claire’s, formerly known as Claire’s Accessories; the American retailer of accessories, jewellery that has stores in over 90% of US shopping malls and 1,141 outlets across Europe, was forced to recall three of its make-up products after tests found traces of asbestos.

The media has widely reported that the company recalled the products in question after initially refusing a demand from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after test’s indicated there were traces of potentially fatal asbestos fibres present.

So how does asbestos end up in cosmetics?…

The answer, through a close connection with talc.

Talc is a clay mineral produced through mining and in it’s powdered form talc is used in a vast range of industries, including papermaking, plastic and paint to pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and ceramics.

Indeed talc is often combined with corn starch to create the widely used substance better known as baby powder.

Asbestos; more specifically White Asbestos or Chrysotile, is also a natural mineral often found near talc. White asbestos is the most commonly encountered form of asbestos, and if during the mining process, talc is not carefully purified, it may become contaminated with asbestos.

Talc has been in the headline before surrounding matters relating to public health. Recent court cases in the US have centred around on a possible link between ovarian cancer in women and the regular use of talcum powder. The American Cancer Society has commented cautiously and provided guidance that can be viewed here. as have the NHS here.

Stringent quality controls in the mining process brought in during 1976, that including separating “cosmetic” and “food” grade talc from “industrial” grade talc was widely thought to have eliminated this issue of Asbestos in talc. That said it remains a potential hazard in the mining process, and as this latest story surrounding Claire’s products shows the problem may not yet be sufficiently mitigated.

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