The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released the sixth and final part of its year-long sampling assignment of testing talc-based cosmetics products for asbestos contamination, which was performed by an outside laboratory. Those testing services were performed by Lanham, Maryland-based AMA Analytical Services, Inc. (AMA) and commenced in September 2018. AMA was selected because of its expertise and knowledge in asbestos testing, as well as having conducted a previous successful survey for the FDA.
The FDA contracted AMA to test talc-based cosmetics products such as makeup and Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, which were selected and purchased by the FDA and provided to the laboratory as blinded samples. During the course of its testing, AMA found that nine of the 43 samples provided tested positive for asbestos contamination, including one lot of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, which was recalled in October 2019. Other cosmetics products which tested positive for asbestos included makeup produced and sold by Claire’s and City Color, some of which have been recalled.
The FDA selected the various products based on criteria such as the type of talc-based product, range of price, prevalence on social media and other advertisements, whether it was marketed as a children’s product, and whether the FDA had received third-party reports of asbestos contamination in the particular product. AMA’s testing procedures utilized Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) to detect and quantify mineral particles which were suspected to perhaps be asbestos fibers. According to the FDA, TEM is the most sensitive testing method for detecting and quantifying asbestos minerals.
The results of AMA’s testing for the FDA sent shockwaves through the legal and cosmetics industries with the news that one lot of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder tested positive for asbestos fibers. As a result, the pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant voluntarily recalled 33,000 bottles of its iconic Baby Powder from store shelves. Johnson & Johnson is currently embroiled in an estimated 17,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country brought by plaintiffs who claim their various forms of cancer were caused by decades of using the company’s talc based products.
To date, juries in Missouri, California, and New Jersey have handed down compensation totaling over $5 billion to dozens of plaintiffs who claim they developed serious forms of cancer, including mesothelioma, from using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder. Those lawsuits claim that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades about the risk of asbestos contamination in its talc-based cosmetics products but failed to provide warnings to consumers about the health risks associated with asbestos exposure.
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