Posted on March 12, 2019

The new Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 has just been introduced in Congress, and it seems its arrival could not be more appropriate. Last year, we published a series of blogs highlighting reports by the United States Public Interest Research Group, that warned of tremolite contamination in children’s makeup products sold nationally by Claire’s and Justice retail stores. Tremolite is a form of asbestos found as an impurity in talc mines that can find its way into cosmetic products containing talc.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published its own assessment of the products and confirmed that both Claire’s and Justice had sold contaminated products. Justice had already recalled its suspected products back in 2017, but Claire’s has refused to recall its products, despite requests from the FDA.

“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,” said the FDA. “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. It’s also why when we hear about reports of contamination, like the 2017 reports of asbestos contamination in certain cosmetic products sold by Claire’s and Justice retailers, we’re especially concerned.”

While ADAO is relieved and encouraged to hear that the FDA has chosen to take action on this issue, one is left to wonder why they haven’t done so sooner. A substantial number of media outlets have reported on talc contaminations in consumer products in recent years. Over the past decade, ADAO has highlighted how these crises threaten women and young people.

For its own part, the Agency put forward that it will be more proactive in its interactions with cosmetics manufacturers by requesting information about procedures to ensure products are safe from asbestos; investigating how companies source talc used in their products; and identifying products that contain talc.

However, the FDA’s ability to regulate the cosmetics industry is limited and was criticized as such by its own leadership. According to the New York Times, departing FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, called the Agency’s approach to regulation “outdated” and constrained by “limitations on [its] cosmetic oversight authority.” In short, the FDA is unable to force Claire’s to recall its asbestos-containing products.

Claire’s and Justice are not alone in their asbestos woes. A damning investigative report published by Reuters last December revealed that, Johnson and Johnson worked for years to bury reports that there is asbestos in its baby powder and other talc-based products. The company now faces increased litigation from victims affected by their products and scrutiny from congressional officials.

On Tuesday, March 12, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will convene for a hearing titled, “Examining the Public Health Risks of Carcinogens in Consumer Products.” The purpose of the hearing is to evaluate evidence on the health risks of talc in consumer products and the regulation of cosmetic products in the United States. We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for their leadership and continued efforts to protect public health and our environment.

“Let’s be clear: There is no question that exposure to asbestos is hazardous to human health,”Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08) said. “The FDA cannot order any manufacturers to recall these personal care or cosmetics products that potentially contain asbestos. The question is, why? Because a loophole in the statute that empowers the FDA to regulate personal care products and cosmetics does not allow the FDA to require necessary recalls.”

Asbestos is a known carcinogen with no safe level of use. It is unacceptable for our nation’s parents, teens, and children to be exposed to this known carcinogen that remains lethal and legal.The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act bans asbestos-contaminated consumer products, leaving no room for the Claire’s and Justices of the world to cause this risk. It is time we call on Congress to take action, pass this bill, and put and end to this madness.

Linda Reinstein

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