Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib recently expressed outrage over recent reports of asbestos found in cosmetics marketed specifically to young girls.

In a U.S. House hearing on the health risks posed by certain consumer products, Tlaib pointed to “corporate greed,” as a reason for these health risks, calling it a “type of cancer.”

The presence of asbestos—a known carcinogen—was confirmed by the FDA to be present in makeup sold by Justice and Claire’s—and marketed to pre-teens.

Asbestos-Tainted Cosmetics Being Marketed to “Working-Class” Pre-Teens

Asbestos occurs naturally and is often found in the same areas as talc, which is used in many products and their labels, including a number of cosmetics.

As Tlaib noted, the products containing talc are marketed specifically to middle-class working people—people who are not customers at Macy’s, adding “It shook me…I honestly thought, FDA has got it covered, EPA has got it covered.”

This is not the only safety and/or environmental issue with which Tlaib has taken issue with the EPA about. Tlaib and Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell have expressed concern to the acting EPA administrator about Marathon Refinery’s rotten egg smell in the city of Detroit.

FDA Notes Its Limited Regulatory Powers Over the Cosmetics Industry

Tlaib also said she had seen her own nieces using the cosmetics which have since been recalled due to the levels of asbestos found in them. Earlier, a statement was issued by the FDA, which essentially informed the public that the agency has very limited regulatory power over the cosmetic industry.

The agency noted that because of this limited regulatory power, the cosmetic’s manufacturers and those who sell the products are ultimately responsible for the safety of the products, as well as for the labeling.

Manufacturers of Cosmetics Not Required to Conduct Safety Testing or Register with the FDA

What this means in practice is that manufacturers of cosmetics have the choice to determine whether they will conduct safety testing on their products or register the products with the FDA. There currently exist no legal requirements for such testing or registration, making it entirely voluntary.

Yet only last month, subpoenas were issued in the investigation of asbestos found in Johnson & Johnson baby powder by the DOJ and the SEC. As reported by Reuters, J & J was aware for more than a quarter of a century that it’s baby powder with talc was, at least on occasion, contaminated with asbestos yet kept that information from the public and from regulators.

Johnson & Johnson Calls Testimony Regarding Asbestos in Talcum Powder “Biased”

Legislation is being called for, which would provide more regulatory power to the FDA as well as attempting to improve the awareness consumers have regarding the potential risks posed by toxic substances found in cosmetics.

Johnson & Johnson called the testimony at the baby powder asbestos trials “biased,” claiming that “decades of studies” have concluded J & J baby powder with talc is free of asbestos, therefore safe to use.

Claire’s Refuses to Recall Products, Justice Agrees

Unsafe side effects were first reported to the FDA two years ago.
By the time 2018 came to a close, both Justice and Claire’s had removed a few products when asbestos was found in those products. Initially, testing by a third-party determined the cosmetics were contaminated with asbestos.

The FDA then performed its own tests, reaching the conclusion that one product from Justice and three products from Claire’s tested positive for asbestos. At the time, the FDA asked that the retailers pull the contaminated products from the shelves, however, while Justice agreed, Claire’s refused. The company did remove the items from their stores, offering refunds for returned talc-based products.

Claire’s took issue with the FDA warning, saying they found issues with the FDA testing, and that there is no evidence any products sold by Claire’s are unsafe.
Since the FDA currently has no authority to require such a recall, the agency did the next best thing, by posting a safety alert, urging consumers to stop using talc-based products from Claire’s. Justice, on the other hand, voluntarily recalled flagged items.

Getting Help for Asbestos Exposure in Louisiana

If you or a loved one has developed an asbestos-related illness, like mesothelioma or asbestosis, it can be helpful to contact our experienced Louisiana asbestos attorneys to help understand the legalities associated with asbestos exposure.

Call 504-299-1214 and speak to one of our attorneys about your legal options.