The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking into the possibility that cosmetics containing talc may be contaminated with asbestos and will “take appropriate actions to protect consumers,” the agency told SELF magazine.
SELF posed the question, “How Worried Do You Need to Be About Asbestos in Baby Powder and Other Talc Products?” in a recent issue of its online magazine. The story follows a Reuters investigation in December that revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its talcum powder products may have been contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos, but the company never informed federal regulators nor did it warn the public.
Asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs and other internal organs.
Johnson & Johnson has been firm in its denial of the allegations, arguing that asbestos-contaminated talc samples from 1984, 1985 and 1986 were taken from California talc properties that were sourced for industrial talc use and not cosmetic use. Instead, the company sourced its cosmetic talc from Vermont mines in the 1980s.
But studies have raised serious questions about whether Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder have caused consumers to develop cancers like mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. There are nearly 12,000 lawsuits against J&J that make such claims, many of which blame asbestos contamination as the cause.
The FDA told SELF it was taking the matter seriously. “We continue to use several means to monitor cosmetic safety generally, including conducting research, to help ensure that cosmetics available to American consumers are safe,” the FDA said. “We have also formed an interagency working group to reach consensus on the analytical testing methodologies for measuring asbestos in talc samples. Specifically, the work group is focusing its efforts around developing better methods of identification and detection of asbestos as a contaminant in talc. As we move forward in this initiative we will engage with stakeholders and provide opportunities for public input. We look forward to sharing more information in the future.”