Asbestos in Cosmetics: A Hidden Health Hazard

When thinking of asbestos and disease, most envision old, unstable floor tiles, insulation in homes or offices, or heavy industries like shipbuilding and construction. Rarely do people associate asbestos with the beauty industry. However, many British women are now suing major cosmetic companies in the United States, alleging that they developed mesothelioma—a severe, incurable cancer of the lung, heart, or stomach lining—through their use of beauty products.

The culprit is talcum powder, a common ingredient in makeup such as bronzer, blusher, eye shadow, foundation, mascara, lipstick, and dry shampoo. Talc, mined from underground clay deposits, can often contain asbestos. Despite reassurances from major brands like Estée Lauder and Clinique that their talc is asbestos-free, the uneven distribution of asbestos in talc and the limitations of common testing methods make contamination difficult to rule out.

Hannah Fletcher, a former British Airways employee, developed peritoneal mesothelioma in 2016. After extensive treatments and a biopsy revealing asbestos fibers in talc, it was concluded that her condition resulted from her exposure to makeup containing talcum powder. Fletcher's legal action in the US led to a substantial settlement and paved the way for others to seek justice.

This issue gained more attention following numerous lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for asbestos contamination in its Baby Powder. While Cancer Research UK and other bodies claim there is no definitive evidence linking cosmetic talc to cancer, the lack of sensitive testing methods remains a concern.

As awareness grows, some cosmetic brands are turning to safer alternatives like corn starch. However, many popular products still contain talc, raising questions about the risks involved. The call for a ban on cosmetic talc is growing louder, advocating for safer beauty products and better consumer protection.

You can read the full story here.

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