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Asbestos Contamination Found in More Claire's Cosmetics: New FDA Report

Health + Wellness
Asbestos Contamination Found in More Claire's Cosmetics: New FDA Report
A Claire's store in Waterbury, Connecticut. Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found more asbestos in make-up sold at Claire's, an accessory store geared towards young teenagers.


The store voluntarily recalled its Claire's JoJo Siwa Makeup Set after FDA testing turned up traces of the cancer-causing material, the agency announced Thursday. Beauty Plus Global also recalled its Beauty Plus Global Contour Effects Palette 2 for the same reason.

"Claire's Stores, Inc. has voluntarily recalled the JoJo Cosmetic Kit out of an abundance of caution after testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration indicated the possible presence of trace amounts of asbestos fibers in the powder eyeshadow element of the kit," a company spokesperson told TODAY Style.

The FDA gave the full product details of both cosmetics and urged anyone who owned them to stop using them. They are:

  1. Beauty Plus Global Contour Effects Palette 2, Batch No. S1603002/PD-C1179
  2. Claire's JoJo Siwa Makeup Set, SKU #888711136337, Batch/Lot No. S180109

The news comes three months after the FDA warned customers to avoid three Claire's products that had also tested positive for asbestos. The alarm was first raised about the company's make-up in 2017, when a Rhode Island mother had her daughter's make-up kit tested for asbestos. The results prompted the store to recall 17 products.

Personal care products can become contaminated with asbestos because the mineral occurs next to talc, a common cosmetics ingredient. Asbestos can end up mixed in with the talc if the talc is not mined carefully. A similar problem occurred with Johnson & Johnson's talcum baby-powder, something the company knew about and covered up for decades.

In its statement to Today Style, Clarie's said its products were safe and that it had taken steps to avoid future contamination.

"Claire's stands behind the safety of this item and all other Claire's cosmetic items, as such small trace amounts are considered acceptable under European and Canadian cosmetic safety regulations," a spokesperson told Today Style. "In addition, last year Claire's moved to talc-free cosmetic manufacturing to prevent any further concerns about talc contamination. Claire's also supports increased FDA oversight of personal care products. We will provide a full refund to any customers who purchased the product."

The incidents have prompted lawmakers to call for better labeling for cosmetic products. After the March discovery of asbestos in Clarie's make-up, Michigan Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell and Illinois Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky introduced legislation requiring that all make-up marketed to children come with a warning if it had not been tested for asbestos, Michigan Advance reported.

"Asbestos in children's cosmetics is simply unacceptable. It is so basic we shouldn't need legislation to ban it but we do," Dingell said in a Friday statement reported by Michigan Advance. "Yet again, retailers like Claire's and Beauty Plus are removing products from their shelves after asbestos was found in their cosmetics. This so despicable; all of us need to be outraged. Congress must pass strong legislation so all cosmetics – especially cosmetics marketed toward children – contain proper warning labels alerting people of dangerous toxins."

The law governing FDA oversight of cosmetics has not been updated since 1938, and does not require that the agency test cosmetics before they are sold to customers. Democratic California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins have introduced the Personal Care Product Safety Act to strengthen the FDA's regulation of cosmetics and empower it to recall make-up products that it considers unsafe.

Asbestos itself is not fully banned in the U.S. The most recent regulation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires companies to get EPA approval before manufacturing or importing asbestos for any of 15 discontinued uses as well as any new use. Public health advocates have warned that the rule could actually open the door to more future uses of the material that kills between 12,000 and 39,275 Americans a year.

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In early October, Britain's Prince William teamed up with conservationist David Attenborough to launch the Earthshot Prize, a new award for environmentalist innovation. The Earthshot brands itself the "most prestigious global environment prize in history."

The world-famous wildlife broadcaster and his royal sidekick appear to have played an active role in the prize's inception, and media coverage has focused largely on them as the faces of the campaign.

But the pair are only the frontmen of a much larger movement which has been in development for several years. In addition to a panel of experts who will decide on the winners, the prize's formation took advice from the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Jack Ma Foundation.

With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?

'Count Me In'

"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.

"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."

Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.

German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.

"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"

"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.

Assessing Success Is Complex

But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.

"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.

Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.

"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."

A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.

"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.

Awareness Is Not Enough

Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.

"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."

But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.

"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."

However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.

For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."

McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.

But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.

But Does It Really Work?

While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.

"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.

This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.

The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.

"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."

Reposted with permission from DW.

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