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FDA carries out asbestos tests in cosmetic talc after concerns are raised

by Michelle YeomansCosmetics Design
March 21st, 2012

The US Food and Drug Administration has announced it recently carried out tests on certain cosmetic products containing talc after general concerns about the possible presence of asbestos were raised.

"From time to time, the FDA has received questions about its safety and whether talc contains harmful contaminants, such as asbestos," said a spokesperson.

Talc has many uses in cosmetics, for example, it may be used to absorb moisture, to prevent caking, to make facial makeup opaque, or to improve the feel of a product.

According to the administration, the survey found no asbestos fibers or structures in any of the samples of cosmetic products containing talc. However, the FDA stresses that "the results were limited, by the fact that only four talc suppliers submitted samples and by the number of products tested."

"While the FDA finds these results informative, they do not prove that most or all talc or talc-containing cosmetic products currently marketed in the United States are likely to be free of asbestos contamination. We will continue to monitor for new information and take appropriate actions to protect the public health."

Talc & asbestos

Talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that may be found in close proximity in the earth. Unlike talc, however, asbestos is a known carcinogen, to prevent contamination of talc with asbestos, it is essential to select talc mining sites carefully and take steps to purify the ore sufficiently.

According to the FDA, questions about the potential contamination of talc with asbestos have been raised since the 1970s.

The survey

The FDA contracted AMA Analytical Services to carry out the survey based on its experience of asbestos analysis.

A total of thirty-four cosmetic products containing talc were selected, including eye shadow, blush, foundation, face powder, and body powder all purchased from retail stores in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

The contract laboratory then analyzed the samples three times over using polarized light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy methods published by the New York State Department of Health, Environmental Laboratory Approval Program.