Watchdog group says it found asbestos in store makeup

Posted at 6:14 PM, Mar 15, 2018

There's a new warning about makeup. A watchdog group says it has found asbestos in several products, sold in a store targeted to teens and young girls. 

What do you think of when you hear the word asbestos?

“I think of like commercials like where your loved one has been exposed to asbestos and you die,” one woman says. “I'm like, 'Oh my God,' it's terrible.”

Another woman said, “Like in a house that's like shut down forever” she says. “There's asbestos in a house.”

You don't usually think of makeup.Danny Katz with U.S. PIRG, a consumer watchdog group said it tested more than a dozen make up products and found "high levels of asbestos" in three. They're all sold at Claire's, a store with products aimed toward girls and young women.

“It's completely unacceptable to have asbestos in these products,” Katz says. “Asbestos if you inhale it or ingested it can lead to lung cancer it can lead to mesothelioma, which is cancer of the internal organs, and if you apply it over skin over time it can also increase the risk of skin cancer."

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in talc, a common product in many makeup products. But Katz says it's a company's responsibility to make sure the talc it uses hasn't been contaminated.

“We need Claire's to remove these products from the shelves and we need them to figure out how asbestos got in their products to begin with,” Katz says. “We need Congress and the FDA to take action. We need to ban asbestos from beauty care products and makeup.”

Right now, Katz and U.S. PIRG are urging us to avoid products with talc until federal laws change.

It's not the first time Claire's has come under scrutiny for this. Just four months ago, Claire's pulled some items after independent lab tests found evidence of asbestos, then said its own initial testing found no problems.

Regarding these latest allegations, Claire's released a statement saying, 

"At Claire’s, customer safety is of paramount concern, and we pride ourselves in providing our customers with quality products that we stand by, so we wish to address a recent report that cosmetics sold by Claire’s may contain asbestos.  We want to assure our customers that all of our products are safe and asbestos-free.

Claire’s categorically denies that the testing by STAT, relied upon by PIRG, is accurate. The test methods that were used by STAT are obsolete and unreliable, and STAT is not certified to perform the type of testing necessary for talc-based products.  In contrast, Claire’s has conducted extensive testing and investigation in cooperation with relevant authorities, including the FDA, Health Canada, and a number of EU enforcement agencies, to demonstrate that Claire’s products are asbestos-free and comply with all relevant safety regulations.  Indeed, testing by an independent laboratory of fifteen samples confirms that the products tested by STAT are asbestos-free.


In addition, testing of more than 85 samples using the most up to date test methods has been conducted by independent laboratories both in the USA and Europe. In addition, several cosmetic products sold by Claire’s have been tested by Health Canada and the Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT).  This extensive testing conducted by four separate laboratories has confirmed that these cosmetics products do not contain asbestos. In addition, all our powder-based cosmetics use the same base formulation, utilizing Merck certified asbestos-free talc, which is the same talc used in other well-known cosmetic brands."

U.S. PIRG replied to Claire’s response:

“Claire’s incorrectly claims that our testing methods are unsound. Its accusations are misinformed at best, and seem to be designed to distract from the bottom-line: that Claire’s is selling makeup that contains asbestos to preteens. 

"Claire’s has previously claimed that its products are free of asbestos, despite evidence to the contrary. While we have been transparent about our testing methods and results, Claire’s does not provide its own test results, or explain its own testing methodology. On balance, it is clear that Claire’s is trying to confuse the facts.

"We know our testing used proper methodology. The independent laboratory that tested the samples used PLM and TEM methods, which are both recommended by the Talc Expert Panel that advises the FDA and the National Institutes of Health. They followed the procedures laid out by the Food & Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency for testing. The FDA lays out methodology for testing cosmetics for asbestos here.

"Our lab used two methods (both of which the lab is accredited for) and then re-tested their results of the TEM method:

1.  PLM procedure: EPA Method EPA 600/R-93/116 “Method for the Determination of Asbestos in Bulk Building Materials.”

2.  TEM procedure: EPA Method 40 CFR Part 763, Subpart E, Appendix A, “Interim Transmission Electron Microscopy Analytical Methods - Mandatory and Nonmandatory - and Mandatory section to Determine Completion of Response Actions.”

"Our lab is accredited by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology NVLAP program. The FDA used a lab on this accredited list for their cosmetics testing for asbestos (AMA Analytical Services) and we used another lab on the list, STAT Analysis Corporation.

"Claire’s makes three main incorrect claims:

1.  That we did not perform the PLM method, but only used the TEM method. In our report where we provide a copy of our results, you can see that the lab performed both the TEM and PLM tests.

2.  That STAT Analysis Corporation has not been certified to test for these type of products. To the contrary, their accreditation for testing asbestos is here:  .In fact, this certification is the same certification as the FDA’s lab for testing asbestos in talc.

3.  That the preparation procedures for the TEM method is outdated. This claim by Claire’s is not based on any literature, and is unsupported by the Talc Expert Panel.

"We tested 15 different products, 12 of which tested negative for asbestos. Claire’s was the only company whose products were found to contain asbestos. Of the four products we tested from Claire’s, three of the four products tested positive for asbestos. One of the four products tested negative for asbestos. Our results show that only 20% of the products we tested contained asbestos. This further demonstrates that the testing procedures were fair, balanced, and independent.

"Claire’s has had time to respond to our test results, to take these products off the shelves, and to inform consumers. Instead, only after the media contacted the company, Claire’s claimed that our testing methods are unsound (without giving any details about alternative testing methods), and Claire’s still is not taking these products off the shelves. When Claire’s was previously accused of selling makeup contaminated with asbestos, it pulled the products from the shelves. Based on our new test results, it should do the same now."