Alert: Tests Find Asbestos in Talc-Based Eye Shadow Kits

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For Immediate Release: 
Friday, May 15, 2020

WASHINGTON – The notorious human carcinogen asbestos has been found in two talc-containing eye shadow palettes, according to laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group.

The lab found asbestos – up to nearly 3.9 million asbestos fiber structures per gram of eyeshadow – in the Jmkcoz 120 Colors Eyeshadow Palette makeup kit sold on Amazon. Of the 45 shades tested from the kit, 40 percent contained asbestos.

Asbestos was found in a second Jmkcoz eyeshadow kit, Beauty Glazed Gorgeous Me Eye Shadow Tray Palette, sold on the company’s website and on Amazon and eBay, at levels up to 3.5 million asbestos fiber structures per gram of eyeshadow. Of the 25 shades tested from the kit, 20 percent contained the deadly fiber.

UPDATE, May 20: Since EWG issued this alert on May 15, it appears both Amazon and Ebay have removed the palettes sold by Jmkcoz from their respective websites. However, there are many similar toy makeup kits for sale by both online retailers. Out of an abundance of caution, EWG advises parents and caregivers to avoid purchasing any makeup palettes that include talc as an ingredient.

“We urge anyone who has purchased either of these products for themselves, family or friends to take the necessary steps to ensure they are no longer being used,” said Tasha Stoiber, Ph.D., a senior scientist at EWG. “And we call on these companies and online retailers to immediately pull both of these products from their respective websites. Asbestos, even at the smallest levels of exposure, can cause serious harm – even death – later in life.”

Scientific Analytical Institute, Inc., based in Greensboro, N.C., conducted the tests on behalf of EWG. The institute is one of the world’s leading laboratories testing consumer products for the presence of asbestos.

Geologically, talc and asbestos can naturally occur alongside each other in rock. Talc deposits in many regions are contaminated with asbestos fibers. 

Asbestos fibers can be inhaled and become lodged in the lungs. Asbestos can cause grave, often fatal, illnesses whose symptoms may not become evident for years or even decades after exposure.

Health experts and government agencies agree that any exposure to asbestos is dangerous. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration: “There is no ‘safe’ level of exposure for any type of asbestos fiber. Asbestos exposures as short in duration as a few days have caused mesothelioma in humans.”

The troubling news about the presence of asbestos in these eyeshadow palettes is just the latest example of the deadly fiber contaminating products that contain talc as an ingredient.

  • In January, similar lab tests commissioned by EWG found asbestos in a talc-containing children’s toy makeup set.
  • In October 2019, Johnson & Johnson issued a voluntary recall of its baby powder after the Food and Drug Administration found trace levels of asbestos in samples of the popular product.
  • In March 2019, the FDA issued a rare alert, urging consumers to stop using certain cosmetics products from the national retailer Claire’s, after the agency found the deadly carcinogen asbestos in at least three different talc-based products.
  • The FDA issued a similar safety alert in September after the agency found asbestos in at least four different talc-based products marketed by Beauty Plus.
  • In 2015, EWG Action Fund, EWG’s 501(c)(4) sister organization, found asbestos fibers in several brands of children’s crayons and toy crime scene investigation kits.
  • In 2007, tests commissioned by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization also found the lethal fiber in a toy fingerprint kit named after the television show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
  • In 2000, an investigation by journalists from the Seattle Post Intelligencer discovered asbestos in imported crayons made with talc.

The government does not require that cosmetics be tested for safety before they go on the market; and any talc-containing products, intended for children or adults, can potentially be contaminated with asbestos. 

At the federal level, in March 2019, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., introduced legislation that would require warning labels on talc-based cosmetics that could contain asbestos and are marketed to children.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., chairman of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has introduced legislation that would give the FDA the power to review controversial chemicals used in cosmetics and determine whether those ingredients are safe, safe at certain levels or unsafe. The bill also gives the FDA the capacity to recall and stop production of products that pose serious health risks to consumers, including those where asbestos has been found.

As long as dangerous ingredients such as asbestos remain on the market, it’s a good idea, particularly for parents, to:

  • Use EWG’s Skin Deep® cosmetics database to make sure you choose the makeup and other personal care products with the fewest hazardous ingredients.
  • Be wary of toy makeup kits. They are often made from cheap and potentially hazardous ingredients, like asbestos, lead and chemicals linked to serious health impacts.
  • Avoid powders that contain talc, especially for children. Makeup in powder form can be easily inhaled into little lungs, and can damage them. Instead look for cream-based blushers and eye shadow.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.