Because asbestos used to be a common building material, it's usually found in ceiling tiles, insulation, siding, and roof shingles. However, it also turns up in other products (like crayons and talc-based makeup) from time to time, and cosmetics sold by retail chain Claire's are the latest ones affected.
As CNN reports, the FDA declared three of Claire's products—eyeshadow, compact powder, and contour palettes—unsafe for use. The products are believed to no longer be available for purchase, but customers who have bought these products in the past are urged to stop using them immediately. Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, among other diseases and ailments.
Reports of asbestos in cosmetics sold by Claire's and teen clothing retailer Justice initially surfaced in 2017. At the time, the products were voluntarily recalled by the companies, both of which market their jewelry, accessories, and makeup products towards children. The FDA followed up with its own independent tests, and the results came back in late February. Those tests confirmed the presence of asbestos in three Claire's products and one Justice product.
Justice stopped selling the affected product in 2017, but Claire's "has refused to comply with the FDA’s request" to issue a recall, according to the agency. However, Claire's said in a statement that it has removed the products from store shelves. At the same time, the company, which declared bankruptcy in March 2018, contests the FDA's test results and argues that they contain factual errors. "Specifically, the FDA test reports have mischaracterized fibers in the products as asbestos, in direct contradiction to established EPA and USP criterion for classifying asbestos fibers," Claire's said in a statement.
Still, some are questioning why issues like these go undetected for so long. By the FDA's own admission, it's partly due to a lack of oversight. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which governs the sale of cosmetic products, hasn't been updated since it was 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," the FDA states. It says it is now taking "new steps" to protect consumers by urging cosmetics companies to register their products with the FDA and list the ingredients they contain. This move would not be mandatory.