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<strong>Asbestos in cosmetics. Is there asbestos in your cosmetics?</strong>
January 24 2023

Asbestos in cosmetics. Is there asbestos in your cosmetics?

Cosmetics and Personal Care

Talc is an ingredient used in many cosmetics, from baby powder to blush. From time to time, Authorities received alerts concerning its safety due to the presence of harmful contaminants, such as asbestos. Talc is a mineral ingredient that has been used in personal care products for decades as it creates a soft, silky texture, and it dilutes pigmented products and acts as filler. Because of how and where talc is mined, mineral deposits used for manufacturing products are consistently found to be contaminated with amphibole asbestos, such as tremolite and anthophyllite. Asbestos is a carcinogen and it is known that there is no safe level of exposure to it. Asbestos ends up in makeup and other cosmetic products because of poor regulations involving cosmetic-grade talc, which is also known as talcum powder. Knowing the different terms used to describe talc is also important. The mineral may be labelled under several different terms, including the following: Talc, Talcum, Talcum powder, Cosmetic talc, and Magnesium silicate.

The FDA survey
A survey, handled by the FDA in 2017, found asbestos contamination in several children’s products that were recalled. After that, the FDA has continued its testing for asbestos contamination in talc-containing cosmetics, which were selected based on various factors including, type of talc-containing cosmetic product, price range, popular products on social media and in advertisements, products marketed to the children, and, if any, third party reports of potential asbestos contamination.

The manufacturers of cosmetic products
Manufacturers do not purposely add asbestos to cosmetics, but due to the lack of regulation around cosmetic-grade talc, the control for the presence of asbestos is not compulsory.
Anyway, the recent scandals involving major cosmetics companies concerning the presence of asbestos in some of their products have raised public attention.

The IWGACP suggests a multi-testing approach to catch as much of the contaminant in talc as possible.
The IWGACP (Interagency Working Group on Asbestos in Consumer Products) was formed in 2018 following several cosmetic product recalls in the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Taiwan, and recently has published its white paper on standardizing asbestos testing in cosmetic talc, and among many conclusions stated both optical and electron microscopy to catch as much of the contaminant as possible.

The full recommendations are as follows:

  1. Use both PLM and TEM methods to identify/report, at minimum, the presence of asbestos, other amphibole minerals, and talc particles exhibiting non-platy morphology.
  2. Tabulate, at minimum, all amphibole and chrysotile particles having a length ≥ 0.5 micrometer (μm) (500 nanometer (nm)) and a ratio of length to width, i.e., aspect ratio (AR), ≥ 3:1 in talc-containing cosmetic products and talc intended for use in cosmetics, and avoid categorizing such particles as non-asbestiform when there is ambiguity as to habit of growth.
  3. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) can be used as a complementary method to TEM, but has certain limitations at this time.
  4. TEM results should be reported by tabulating each particle to facilitate an estimate of the number of particles per unit mass of sample analyzed (i.e., particles/gram of talc, particles/gram cosmetic product), rather than as weight percent.
  5. An adequate number of TEM images that show the morphology of representative particles in each category described in #1 and an adequate number of energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) spectra and selected area electron diffraction analysis (SAED) patterns to support mineral identification should be provided.
  6. Samples should be prepared to mitigate interference from the sample matrix using techniques similar to those used for the testing of bulk materials for asbestos.
  7. Content and format of analytical reports should facilitate consistent and comprehensive reporting of particles (as described in #1 and 2), in conjunction with adequate documentation of findings.
  8. Policies and procedures covering rigorous training, quality assurance, and quality control should accompany the implementation of these methods to maintain intra- and inter-laboratory consistency and to ensure laboratories are qualified and their qualifications are reviewed regularly.

How Mérieux NutriSciences can check the presence of asbestos in a cosmetic product?

Mérieux NutriSciences enjoys a long experience and cutting-edge technology to detect the presence of asbestos contaminations in cosmetic product thanks to a dedicated department inside the Environmental Business Units. Our lab is accredited and approved by Italian Ministry of Health for the analysis of asbestos -on solid samples, airborne asbestos fibres and asbestos in water- for all of the planned techniques.

Our laboratories are equipped with various analytical methods, including:

  • XRD, X-Ray Diffraction (to identify and estimate amounts of mineral types in bulk sample)
  • PLM, Polarized Light Microscopy (to identify mineral type based on optical characteristics)
  • TEM (as TEM / EDS / SAED) Transmission Electronic Microscopy (to identify particle morphology, their elemental composition and crystal structure of particles
  • SEM-EDS, Scanning Electron Microscopy with Microanalysis (to identify particle morphology, their elemental composition)

Our scientific experts and dedicated project managers on asbestos testing in cosmetics have a long-standing experience to combine our cutting-edge technologies and develop various strategies and approaches to provide a scientifically valid result.

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