Scientists Want Stricter Talc Asbestos Testing
New tests show many cosmetic, health, and baby care products contain asbestos and pose an inhalation risk
Wednesday, December 2, 2020 - New tests have uncovered asbestos in a wide variety of everyday women's cosmetics, beauty, and baby care products. Studies have also determined that the products in question pose an inhalation risk when used as directed. Johnson's Baby Powder is sold in bottles that require squeezing or shaking encouraging talc and asbestos to become airborne and breathable. Other spray-on antiperspirants or deodorants also leave the user in a cloud of asbestos-laced dust. US News and World Report (USN) report on a study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) an American non-profit consumer advocacy group, that tested thousands of everyday products that contain talc and the results are startling. 15% of the products in the study tested positive for asbestos. The researchers also concluded that the testing methods employed by the self-regulating cosmetics industry are inadequate and too insensitive to find asbestos. Industry testing is performed on a microscopically small sample of talc and done infrequently. Most cosmetic companies never tested their product for asbestos and instead relied on the guarantees of talc mining companies like Imerys. Imerys Inc. was the sole supplier of talc for industry leader Johnson & Johnson until they were forced into bankruptcy a couple of years ago to protect themselves from thousand of lawsuits naming them as a co-defendant with JNJ and other companies like Revlon, Clubman, and Colgate Palmolive who have also been accused of selling asbestos-contaminated beauty products. Imerys sold their North American mining operations to an industrial manufacturing concern for $223 million to be set aside in escrow to pay future talc asbestos cancer claims. Talcum powder cancer lawsuits continue to be filed against Johnson and Johnson and other companies that may be responsible for selling contaminated talc powder with asbestos traces in the consumer products.
USN detailed the concerns of EWG vice president Nneka Leiba relating to talc's inhalation risks. "Many well-known brands use talc in body and facial powders that can be inhaled," said Nneka Leiba, an EWG vice president. She noted that EWG's online database has identified more than 2,000 personal care products that contain talc, including more than 1,000 loose or pressed powders that could pose an inhalation risk. It's troubling to think how many Americans have been using talc-based cosmetics products potentially contaminated with asbestos," Leiba said in an EWG news release." according to USN.
Inhaling talc contaminated with asbestos can lead to developing mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer of the delicate lining of the lungs. Plaintiffs have been awarded millions in monetary and punitive damages in lawsuits alleging that breathing Johnson's Baby Powder dust regularly and for many years caused them to develop the disease for which there is no cure or treatment. Asbestos causing microscopic lacerations to the alveoli tissue of the lungs which heal forming inelastic scar tissue hindering normal breathing. Mesothelioma victims gradually suffocate to death.
The EWG study in question was conducted by The Scientific Analytical Institute in Greensboro, N.C. Sean Fitzgerals, the head of the group was left critical of the FDA's lack of oversight of the cosmetic industry and questioned why outdated asbestos testing methods were in use today. According to USN Fitzgerald told EWG, "(The FDA must) develop a rigorous screening method for talc used in personal care products. The lab repeatedly finds asbestos in products made with talc, including cosmetics marketed to children. It's outrageous that a precise method for testing personal care products for the presence of asbestos exists, but the cosmetics industry isn't required to use it."