The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it has confirmed the presence of asbestos in makeup products from tween retailers Claire’s and Justice first reported in 2017.
The FDA, which regulates the sale of cosmetics in the United States, released test results that confirmed reports from 2017 that led to the voluntary recalls of several products.
Three products from Claire’s and one from Justice were found to contain asbestos, the FDA said.
Hoffman Estates-based Claire’s initially refused the agency’s request to recall those three products, according to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. In a statement Tuesday evening, Claire’s said there was no evidence that any products sold by the company are unsafe, but it had stopped selling the items in question.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have removed the three products identified by the FDA from our stores, and are also removing any remaining talc based cosmetic products,” the retailer said. “We will honor returns of any Claire’s talc based cosmetics.”
Claire’s said the test results showed “significant errors.”
“Specifically, the FDA test reports have mischaracterized fibers in the products as asbestos, in direct contradiction to established EPA and USP criterion for classifying asbestos fibers,” the company said.
Rick Locker, a product safety lawyer who represents retailers and manufacturers, says Chapter 11 allows companies to avoid liability, but “many bankrupt companies do work with regulators and still continue to honor recalls.”
The proceedings do stop all civil litigation, so consumers wouldn’t be able to sue the company over the presence of asbestos.
In the case of Claire’s, Locker said, it will be up to the bankruptcy judge to determine what Claire’s response can be.
The FDA does not have the authority to recall cosmetics, as it does with food and drugs. Cosmetics manufacturers are not required to test their products for safety.
The FDA instead issued a warning to consumers not to use Claire’s Eye Shadows batch No./lot No. 08/17, Claire’s Compact Powder batch No./lot No.: 07/15 or Claire’s Contour Palette batch No./lot No. 04/17.
All suspect Justice products, including one that tested positive for asbestos, were recalled in 2017.
Exposure to asbestos, once commonly used for building insulation, has been found to lead to cancers and tumors on internal organs.
The “clean beauty” movement has focused new attention on what proponents say is the limited oversight of the cosmetics industry.
The FDA said the test results “serve as an important reminder that under our current authority, the FDA has only limited tools to ensure the safety of cosmetics products.”
The law that authorizes the agency to regulate the industry, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, hasn’t been updated since its passage in 1938. The agency says the law relies on cosmetics manufacturers to ensure the safety of their own products.
The FDA called on the industry to take additional steps to protect consumers, including providing details about their safety procedures, particularly around ensuring that the talc used in products is free from asbestos.
The agency also called on companies to list their products and ingredients lists through its Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program.
Activists in recent years have joined in calls for more oversight of the industry.
Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, has long been a problem in consumer products, once found in hair dryers, chalk, crayons and other children’s products.
Locker says reports of asbestos sometimes prove inaccurate.
“Sometimes asbestos-like materials are identified that are not asbestos,” he says.
Once companies and regulators verify a hazardous material, he says, the companies “generally have an obligation to act in the public interest to remove unsafe products from the marketplace.” But he notes the contamination can be limited to a single product or batch.
The FDA has long tracked reports on exposure and “adverse event” complaints, says Linda Katz, director of FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors.
“Most chemicals that have been used in cosmetics have a long history of safe use and have not been the subject of major concern,” she said.
It plans last year to conduct a web-based survey about allergens in cosmetics, with aims of helping the agency better understand consumer decisions, perceptions and allergen awareness.
Cara Kelly, USA TODAY. USA TODAY staff writer Jayne O’Donnell contributed to this report.
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