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Claire's Cosmetics Test Positive for Asbestos, FDA Warns

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John Keeble / Getty Images

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning Tuesday urging customers not to use certain Claire's cosmetics products that may be contaminated with asbestos.


FDA testing turned up tremolite asbestos in the following products, the agency said:

  1. Claire's Eye Shadows – Batch No/Lot No: 08/17
  2. Claire's Compact Powder – Batch No/Lot No: 07/15
  3. Claire's Contour Palette – Batch No/Lot No: 04/17

Claire's, which markets jewelry and makeup to teens and pre-teens, told the FDA that it did not believe the products in question were still for sale in its stores, but the FDA urged anyone who still had these products at home to stop using them.

Reports that Clare's cosmetics contained tremolite asbestos first emerged in 2017, CNN reported, and the retailer took nine makeup products off of the shelf in response. The FDA then tested the products as a response to those concerns.

"Each day, cosmetic products are sold to consumers across the U.S. – some to children under the age of 18, still in the formative years of development. These products are used as part of daily beauty and cleansing routines, often times on the skin's most sensitive areas, like the face, eyelids and lips. That's why it's so important that cosmetic products are safe, properly labeled and free of contamination," outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Susan Mayne said in a statement about the test results.

Claire's, which filed for bankruptcy in March 2018 and only emerged last October, disputed the FDA's results.

"The recent test results the FDA have shared with us show 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. Despite our efforts to discuss these issues with the FDA, they insisted on moving forward with their release," the company said in a statement.

Claire's further claimed that tests conducted by independent, accredited laboratories in 2018 had shown that the products followed safety guidelines.

"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," company spokeswoman Melanie Berry told The New York Times. "There is no evidence that any products sold by Claire's are unsafe."

Asbestos can end up in makeup products because it is found near talc, a common cosmetics ingredient. Because of this, talc can end up being contaminated with asbestos if not mined carefully, the FDA explained. Late last year, a Reuters investigation revealed that Johnson & Johnson had known about asbestos contamination in its talcum baby powder for decades. Asbestos is a known carcinogen that has been linked to many health problems including mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer.

In their statement, Gottlieb and Mayne explained that the law governing the FDA's oversight of cosmetics had not been updated since 1938 and does not require the FDA to test cosmetics products before they are sold to customers.

"[W]hen it comes to cosmetics," they said, "our authority hasn't changed in many years even as the industry has undergone rapid evolution. Right now, when it comes to cosmetics, companies and individuals who market these products in the U.S. hold the responsibility for the safety and labeling of their products."

Gottlieb and Mayne announced various steps they would take to help ensure cosmetics sold in the U.S. are safe, including

1. Ask cosmetics manufacturers for information on how they make sure their products are safe, especially concerning how they ensure talc is asbestos free.

2. Ask companies to voluntarily register their products and list their ingredients with the FDA's Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP).

3. Continue to respond to concerns about particular ingredients, and use science to assess if any should be banned or monitored more closely.

4. Continue work on keeping talc safe from asbestos specifically.

5. Work with Congress to update the ways that the FDA is empowered to regulate cosmetics.

The 2017 testing also showed asbestos in Justice makeup products, and the FDA's testing confirmed its presence in one Justice cosmetic, but the product in question was recalled in December 2017. While Clarie's has withdrawn the products, it has refused to recall them, the FDA said.

"We understand how concerning this finding is for any consumer and parents whose children may have used one of these products. We take these concerns, and our obligation to protect consumers, seriously. Because of the health risks posed by asbestos, which are well-documented by other government agencies, we want to reassure all parents and consumers that the FDA is dedicated to exploring new ways to better protect Americans from this and other public health risks and preventing consumers from being exposed to similar risks from cosmetics," Gottlieb and Mayne said.

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