The Food & Drug Administration has issued a safety alert after reports that asbestos has been found after testing in certain make-up products sold by a UK high street accessory chain. The eye-shadow and compact powder has been removed, along with any other talc-based cosmetic products.
Asbestos can be found in talc if the talc is not sufficiently purified, and talc is a common ingredient in many cosmetics to prevent caking. Many mines that collect talc also contain asbestos, as the two minerals are found close together.
Asbestos is banned in the UK, but not yet in the US (asbestos has also been found in some US cosmetic products from one particular high street chain). Buildings older than 20 years may still contain asbestos in floors, roofs, ceilings and walls, but if the asbestos is not disturbed it poses little risk. However, if it is disturbed it releases tiny fibres which could cause cancer. It can also settle in the lungs and might cause breathing difficulties in time.
Back in the early 1960s I lived with my parents in one of those post-war prefabricated houses, where all the walls were made with asbestos. I threw tennis balls at the walls for years, driving my mother mad. In this photo you can just about see the white asbestos walls behind us.
Mum lived to 92 without any breathing difficulties, but did contract cancer in her sixties, which was successfully treated. Dad died of cancer in 1977 at the age of only 49, and I battled thyroid cancer for 13 years before finally getting rid of it in 2017 (hopefully!).
Were our cancers caused by asbestos? Who knows? I’ve never worn make up, but did use talcum powder for years until my mother told me around 2014 that it wasn’t a good idea. It’s rather worrying that asbestos can be found in make up. My young granddaughters are plastering it on their faces. I was never allowed to wear it, and as I grew up I found that I didn’t want to use it anyway. However, I liked using talcum powder, but these days I find that my usual supermarket has taken it off the shelves due to the fact that they didn’t want to get sued by anybody claiming their cancer had been caused by talcum powder they’d bought from the store.
We don’t know what’s really in the products we use, even though we read the labels. Asbestos isn’t mentioned on talcum powder ingredients, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not in there!