News that U.S. regulators have confirmed asbestos in beauty products sold at two national retailers is no surprise, according to an internationally respected public-health expert whose efforts include sounding the alarm about dangers hidden in consumer goods.
The Federal Drug Administration announced last week that some eye shadow, contour makeup and powder sold by Claire’s contains asbestos and that the toxic substance was in products previously sold by Justice. Both retailers market their goods primarily to young girls and teenagers.
The FDA’s findings are “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of the potential dangers lurking in cosmetics, says Joel Tickner, an authority on how toxic chemicals in everyday products – including makeup, household items and toys – can adversely affect adults and children.
“There’s no safe level of asbestos – it’s a carcinogen. This situation is a lesson in a failed system that doesn’t adequately protect consumers,” says Tickner, an internationally respected expert on safer alternatives who co-founded the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council
, a collaborative of leaders in industry, research and government with members including Amazon, Apple and Nike.
The government has no oversight authority over the beauty product industry owing to a decades-old law that has not kept pace with the industry. Likewise, manufacturers are not required to test their products for safety before sale, according to Tickner and the FDA.
Claire’s voluntarily stopped selling the products targeted by the FDA last week. Justice recalled its products in question from store shelves after asbestos was discovered in them in 2017. The government had no authority to force the companies to do so under the current system.
But some cosmetics manufacturers are becoming proponents of regulation, according to Tickner. “They realize stories like this erode confidence in the industry,” he says. “A lack of regulation also stifles innovation because without guidelines, companies are bound to solely follow the bottom line,” sometimes in favor of looking out for consumers’ health.
Tickner investigates and advances innovative ways to manufacture and use safer products, both as a researcher in the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production and co-director of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell, where he is a professor of public health.
Tickner can provide interviews in English and is also is fluent in Spanish. To connect with him, contact Nancy Cicco at 978-934-4944 or Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu
or Annmarie Seldon at 617-448-7416 or Annmarie_Seldon@uml.edu
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