Consumer watchdog tests makeup products from Claire's, finds asbestos

Mall store denies its products are harmful

DENVER – While most people associate asbestos contamination with decades-old buildings, the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) recently found the contaminant in specific makeup products sold at Claire’s.

U.S. PIRG tested several makeup products marketed towards young girls and teens at the popular mall store.

It found traces of asbestos in at least three makeup products including Claire’s contour palette, Claire’s shadow and highlight finishing kit, and Claire’s compact powder in white.

“I was absolutely floored when I first heard this, because who thinks of asbestos?” Kathryn Dickinson said.

We won’t see asbestos listed as an ingredient either, but experts suggest we take caution when we see the ingredient “talc.”

Dickinson owns AILLEA on Larimer Square in Denver. Products sold at her shop are free of parabens, sulfates and other cancer-causing chemicals.

“There has been no change in regulation in these cosmetic ingredients since the 1930s,” she said.

During Tuesday’s lunch rush, Amy Canfield was in the shop with her two teen daughters.

In response to the new findings, Canfield said, “I find it to be appalling that for my entire lifetime, I've been wearing makeup. That all my products have been unregulated and had potentially dangerous ingredients.”

She said she wants something better for her daughters.

Fortunately, times are changing. The U.S. PIRG’s finding comes at a time when personal care products are being put under the microscope.

U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D- California) and Susan Collins (R- Maine) introduced the Personal Care Products Safety Act. They want to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) more power to regulate what we put in our bodies.

If it were up to U.S. PIRG, it would not be the specific products mentioned above.

Dickinson with AILLEA put into perspective how lax the United States is with cosmetic ingredient regulations.

She said, “In the EU, there are over 1,300 ingredients banned from their products. In the U.S., we have only 12.”

The Colorado PIRG (CoPIRG) Foundation director, Danny Katz, added it’s completely unacceptable to have asbestos in these products.

“Asbestos, if you inhale it or ingested it, can lead to lung cancer. It can lead to mesothelioma which is cancer of the internal organs, and if you apply it over skin over time it can also increase the risk of skin cancer,” Katz said.

While he acknowledged the trace amount of the contaminant is not something we would immediately react to, he said it is something that builds up over time.

“That’s why it’s so important that you’re taking action ahead of time and that companies are ensuring these products don’t make it to the store shelves,” he added.

Claire’s maintains their products are safe and asbestos-free. However, until more is done to regulate cosmetic ingredients, the choice is ultimately ours.

Bloomberg reports the mall staple is preparing to file for bankruptcy and move away from its mall presence.

In the meantime, Dickinson with AILLEA has encouraged consumers to double-check their makeup labels and purchase products free of sulfates, thiolates, parabens, fragrance—things that can ultimately be endocrine disruptive.

“I can't control everything, but the things I can control, I do,” Dickinson said.

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