The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a white paper last week about potential enhancements to testing for asbestos in talc cosmetics.
This white paper comes after a Federal Interagency Working Group collaborated on scientific opinions regarding how to detect asbestos in talc cosmetics and which talcum powder products contain asbestos. The FDA named this group the Interagency Working Group on Asbestos in Consumer Products (IWGACP).
Asbestos and talc, two minerals, mix together during mining procedures. Talc is used to create cosmetics like baby powder, blush and eyeshadow. Asbestos is a known carcinogen linked to lung cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and more diseases. When sharp asbestos fibers infiltrate talcum powder mixtures – which are created from talc – they can pose risks to consumers and factory workers.
According to the FDA, this white paper is a continuation of the agency’s testing efforts to determine how often asbestos contaminates talc.
“We have become aware that methods employed by some industry members to test for asbestos in talc-containing cosmetic products may not always detect the presence of asbestos,” said Susan Mayne, Director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “That’s why an interagency working group sought to take a state-of-the-science look at available methods.”
IWGACP Opinions on Testing for Asbestos in Talc
The feature suggestion to improve testing and detection is adding a test to the process. The cosmetics industry uses Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) if amphibole asbestos strands are found in X-ray scans. This is the generally accepted method since the 1970s.
The suggestion is to use Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) along with PLM. TEM has found asbestos fibers in samples that were labeled negative by PLM.
Other suggestions from the white paper include:
- Reporting all asbestos and other dangerous particles equal to or greater than a specific length and specific length-to-width ratio
- Providing analytical reports of findings
- Establishing policies for laboratories covering training, quality assurance and quality control
These suggestions may overhaul testing and safety in the cosmetics industry. The hope is they ensure consumer safety from cancerous minerals like asbestos.
Since this announcement, the FDA tested talcum powder samples and found no signs of asbestos.
Next Steps for FDA
The FDA will consider the IWGACP’s opinions and may hold public comment in the near future. Hopefully, the agency moves forward to improve testing by manufacturers.
The FDA tests cosmetic samples for asbestos annually. The FDA’s process involves both the PLM and TEM tests.
In 2021, the samples were clean of asbestos. The year prior, around 17% of samples included detectable amounts of asbestos.
Sources & Author
- FDA Releases Federal Interagency Working Group Scientific Opinions on Testing Methods for Asbestos in Talc-Containing Cosmetic Products. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-releases-federal-interagency-working-group-scientific-opinions-testing-methods-asbestos-talc. Accessed: 01/14/2022.
Sources & Author