Our Children’s Cosmetics Should Be Safe

By Dev Gowda
Director, Campaign for Toxic-Free Products


When a parent buys something for their child, they shouldn't have to worry about whether that product contains harmful chemicals. Parents assume items on store shelves are safe, and expect that we already have regulations in place to protect kids.  

But at the start of 2018, national children's retailer Claire's issued a recall of nine makeup products after testing by a law firm found they may contain cancer-causing asbestos fibers. Claire’s has since issued a notice that their own testing has found their products to be asbestos-free.

Asbestos is not used commercially in makeup, but can be found as a contaminant in talc, a common ingredient in cosmetics. Talc is often a major ingredient in sparkly, shimmery and powdery makeup.

The laboratory that performed the tests for the law firm indicated that it has found evidence that products manufactured with talc in China often contains asbestos as a contaminant. Inhaling or ingesting any form of asbestos can lead to serious health conditions, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The potential for asbestos in Claire’s children’s cosmetic products raises questions about how these products are regulated.

Currently, there is no national agency charged with testing kids' makeup for asbestos -- despite its prevalence in talc, a common ingredient. While the Food & Drug Administration does occasionally test makeup for chemicals like lead and mercury, it does not do so regularly. That means that the only way we know whether there are hazardous materials in these products is after they are tested independently--and so many products are never tested.

We can and must do better. We need sensible regulations for cosmetics, and for children’s products. Parents should never have to wonder whether or not asbestos is in kids’ makeup, and consumers shouldn’t wonder if hazardous substances are lurking in their cosmetics.

What's more: there has been no meaningful legislation regulating cosmetics since 1938. While the federal government could step in and require testing for makeup, states can also pass legislation requiring companies to disclose harmful ingredients in makeup to consumers.

New York already requires companies to disclose ingredients in household cleaning products, and California requires companies who sell commercial cleaning products to disclose ingredients.

Parents can take the following precautions to protect kids from potential asbestos contamination in makeup:

  1. Restrict kids' access to makeup, particularly sparkly and powdery makeup;

  2. Check ingredient labels on makeup for talc and do not allow kids to access talc-containing makeup;

  3. Keep kids from inhaling or ingesting makeup (don't let them chew on makeup or apply it near their noses)

And then, you can take action by calling on Congress to do better -- for our children and for our public health, here.

Photos (in order): GWImages via Shutterstock and Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock

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