Testing for Asbestos in Talc Could Become Stricter
The Food and Drug Administration is looking to make asbestos testing for talc based cosmetic products stricter. It recently released its 124-page document written by the Interagency Working Group on Asbestos in Consumer Products. There were eight federal agencies chosen by the FDA that represent the Interagency Working Group, which started in 2018. Asbestos in talc products is dangerous because it can lead to mesothelioma, lung, and other cancers. When talc is mined, it can easily be contaminated with asbestos because they are found near each other. If talc is mined and not properly tested, people can unknowingly be exposed to asbestos.
Currently, cosmetic products do not need FDA approval or testing to be sold in the United States. It is up to the companies selling the products to do their own testing. There are no standards and test data does not have to be shared with the FDA. This could change though. Congressional legislation recommended by the FDA will soon be debated, changing how talc-based products are tested and produced. Certain tests done by companies do not detect asbestos when it could possibly be in the product, so a standardized test could help improve safety and purity standards.
Under the Interagency guidance, there will be more thorough testing procedures in private industry. The first recommendation is to use both Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM). Many testing sites use one but not both testing procedures. X-Ray Diffraction and Scanning Electron Microscopy will also be recommended at certain times. Asbestos-like particles and particles smaller than asbestos will always need to be reported. Analytical reports and documentation of findings will need to be reported to the proper agencies as well. Finally, certain policies and procedures will need to be established to make sure testing laboratories are qualified to do the testing and reviews of the labs will be done regularly.
Certain regulatory changes will be supported by the consensus document. The FDA will have to go through the process slowly, which includes peer review and input from affected and interested parties. For the past three years the agency has been testing talc products for asbestos and it found discrepancies between their tests and the companies’ tests. One study showed that TEM testing found asbestos contamination in nine of 52 samples and PLM testing only found two instances of asbestos in the same 52 samples. In 2019 the FDA announced that it found asbestos in Johnson & Johnson baby powder. The company recalled 33,000 bottles but still claims its product is safe. This past October the FDA used PLM and TEM testing and found no traces of asbestos in 50 products. With more enhanced testing, the FDA can ensure talc-based products are safe for consumers.
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