FDA Tests Find Asbestos in Nearly 20 Percent of Cosmetics

Makeup brushes on black background

Laboratory tests commissioned by the federal Food and Drug Administration of talc-based cosmetics products found the notorious carcinogen asbestos in roughly 20 percent of the samples assessed.

AMA Analytical Services, Inc., the nation’s leading laboratory in matters of asbestos-contaminated talc, was contracted in September 2018 by FDA to test popular cosmetics products that contain talc as an ingredient.

Today FDA released the AMA results in its final report, which shows nine out of 52 cosmetics products tested positive for asbestos.

Concern over the presence of asbestos in cosmetics, particularly those marketed toward children and that include talc as an ingredient, is growing among consumers and Congress.

Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell (D) has introduced legislation that would require companies to demonstrate that cosmetics marketed to children are free of asbestos, and if they could not prove the products were asbestos-free, the items would have to carry warning labels.

“A .200 batting average in baseball is borderline bad, but it’s downright deplorable when it comes to asbestos in cosmetics,” said EWG Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber. “The results of FDA’s tests should be all the evidence needed for Congress to act quickly to pass legislation mandating all talc-based personal care products are rigorously tested and the cosmetics industry is required to put the public’s safety first.”

Beauty brushes.

Asbestos can contaminate talc-based cosmetics such as facial powders, eye shadow and children’s toy makeup sets. Geologically, talc and asbestos can be formed from the same parent rock. As a result, talc deposits mined in many parts of the world can be contaminated with asbestos fibers. This is the likely reason why products made with talc could be contaminated with asbestos.

The federal government says there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even small amounts of asbestos, and exposures as short as a few days, can cause mesothelioma, an incurable cancer, and other diseases many years later. From an analysis of federal mortality data, EWG Action Fund estimated that up to 15,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-triggered diseases.

Under the Dingell bill, companies would be required to use the same rigorous and updated testing methods AMA relies on to ensure that cosmetics do not contain asbestos.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will soon mark up landmark legislation to modernize U.S. cosmetics regulations to safeguard consumers from potentially harmful products.

FDA plans to continue its talc testing program in 2020, with 50 cosmetics products collected and sent to AMA for analysis.

UPDATED at 6:30 PM EDT: An earlier version stated that nine out of 43 cosmetics products tested positive for asbestos.

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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.

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