Talc About Toxic-Free Cosmetics

Crowell & Moring LLP


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Talc is a mineral ingredient used in many cosmetic and personal care products, including baby powder, root touch-up products, and blush.
United States Food, Drugs, Healthcare, Life Sciences
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Talc is a mineral ingredient used in many cosmetic and personal care products, including baby powder, root touch-up products, and blush. Because both talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that may be found in close proximity in underground deposits, there is risk for contamination of asbestos in talc-based products.

For that reason, for the past several years, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted yearly testing of talc-containing cosmetic products for asbestos. On April 5, 2024, FDA announced the results of its 2023 sampling. The testing did not detect asbestos in any of the 50 talc-containing cosmetic product samples tested. The 2023 results were thus consistent with FDA's 2022 and 2021 sampling assignments, which similarly did not detect any asbestos.

The 2023 testing was conducted by AMA Analytical Services, Inc. (AMA), and samples were analyzed using Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM). FDA selected and purchased different types of cosmetic products, varying in price range, popularity, market demographics (e.g., children and women of color), and third-party reports for potential asbestos contamination. Types of products tested included hairline powders, foundation powders, bronzing powders, loose and pressed powders, and setting powders. FDA blinded the samples and submitted them to AMA for testing.

In addition to this annual testing, FDA held in February 2020 a public meeting to discuss testing methods for asbestos in talc-containing cosmetic products, and released in January 2022 a white paper with scientific opinions on testing talc-containing cosmetic products related to the reliability of detecting and identifying asbestos.

Most recently, the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act of 2022 (MoCRA) requires FDA to propose regulations establishing mandatory standardized testing methods for detecting asbestos in talc-containing cosmetic products. In January 2024, FDA submitted a proposed rule to the Office of Management & Budget (OMB). FDA is required to issue a final rule 180 days after the public comment period on the proposed rule closes.

FDA is not the only one with a recent focus on testing talc-containing cosmetic products. In fact, consumers have filed numerous lawsuits against cosmetic companies alleging that they developed cancer – most commonly, mesothelioma and ovarian cancer – as a result of using certain cosmetic products. For example, Johnson & Johnson has faced tens of thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talc-based products, including baby powder, contain asbestos and cause ovarian cancer. On May 1, 2024, Johnson & Johnson, announced that it would pay $6.475 billion to settle these lawsuits.

Despite the results of FDA's 2023 sampling finding no asbestos in 50 cosmetic products, these lawsuits do not appear to be slowing down. For example, in March 2024, a consumer who developed mesothelioma after using talcum products over the course of several decades, filed a complaint in Massachusetts state court against more than 30 different companies, several of which included brand-name beauty companies, for allegedly manufacturing and selling asbestos-contaminated talc products.

It remains to be seen how FDA's findings and the proposed regulation under MoCRA will impact these claims.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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