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Nearly a year after a CALPIRG study showed that U.S.-based retailer Claire’s has been selling makeup contaminated with carcinogenic asbestos, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed our test results. Both CALPIRG and the FDA found asbestos contamination in some of Claire’s makeup products marketed to children.
As of March 5, 2019, according to the FDA, the three asbestos-containing products are still available on store shelves in the United States. Nowhere on Claire’s website does it warn U.S. customers about the contaminated makeup, and the company has not offered refunds to customers who purchased the makeup. Unlike many European agencies, the FDA lacks the enforcement power to force Claire’s to recall the products from store shelves.
In response, U.S. PIRG’s toxics program director Kara Cook-Schultz, who was the lead author on the Claire’s study last year, released this statement:
“We have been doing our part to warn consumers about these products that contain asbestos, but for over a year Claire’s has not adequately addressed the issue and protected consumers. The FDA states that asbestos is a carcinogen, and that makeup companies should take steps to keep asbestos out of cosmetics. It is unconscionable that these products were still being sold to children here in the U.S., while the FDA’s European counterparts were able to make sure these dangerous products have been pulled from the shelves and destroyed in Europe.”
Although the FDA has power to regulate food and drugs, the cosmetics industry has prevented any update to federal authority over cosmetics safety for decades. The agency lacks the power to step in to protect our health when it comes to all personal care products, from makeup to soap and toothpaste.
As Scott Gottlieb, the Head of the FDA said yesterday, on his last day before resigning, “[T]he law governing the FDA’s oversight of cosmetic products — has not been updated since it was first enacted in 1938. The current law does not require cosmetics to be reviewed and approved by the FDA prior to being sold to American consumers.”
Given the void of protections for the public, CALPIRG is calling on action from state legislators here in California to step up and protect public health. “This year, we are working with Environmental Working Group, Assemblyman Muratsuchi and Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks to introduce a bill that would ban known carcinogens and other harmful chemicals from everyday cosmetic products that we use on our skin and hair,” said Laura Deehan, Public Health Advocate with CALPIRG. “Relying on the industry to self regulate has failed.”
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