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How does asbestos end up in makeup?

Early June, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled Nickelodeon star JoJo Siwa's line of makeup kits because some of the products in the kits contained asbestos. Claire's stores around the country pulled the kits from their shelves, and those who have already purchased the kits may receive a refund for the product.

Makeup products in general have been recalled several times over the years for containing asbestos. Because asbestos is so well-known for causing conditions like mesothelioma and asbestosis, you may wonder why makeup manufactures would add asbestos to their products in the first place.

Why is asbestos added to makeup?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that is added to many products for its resistance to heat, fire and electricity. However, makeup manufacturers do not intentionally add asbestos to their products. Asbestos enters makeup as a contaminant in talcum powder, a key ingredient in many makeup products.

Talc, like asbestos, is a naturally occurring mineral. Its soft texture and absorption qualities make talc a desirable ingredient in makeup products, such as powder compacts, finishing powders, eye shadows, blushes, foundations and creams.

Because talc and asbestos minerals form together, the talc mined for commercial purposes can easily be contaminated with the cancer-causing substance. However, that only makes up part of the problem.

Why does contaminated talc go undetected?

No agency or law regulates asbestos in cosmetic-grade talc. Lack of sufficient regulations for talc means that certified as asbestos-free talc often still contains the harmful substance. After a company acquires the talc, the presence of asbestos often continues to go undetected because companies are not required to test their talc before adding it to their products.

If you want to be sure the makeup you buy for yourself or your child does not include asbestos, it may be safest to avoid products containing talc. Keep in mind that talc goes by many names including talcum powder, talcum, cosmetic talc and magnesium silicate.

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