You may have seen the article dated 20 March 2019 under the ‘News’ heading of this website which details how Johnson & Johnson hit the headlines in recent months following a large number of American legal cases against the company claiming that their famous baby powder contained asbestos. It is alleged that the company had known that its talcum powder contained asbestos, but failed to tell customers for over three decades.
In addition to Johnson & Johnson coming under fire, the American company, Claire’s Accessories, whose market is aimed at teenaged girls, has also has come under recent scrutiny. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert on 26 February 2019 warning consumers not to use three cosmetics products; eye shadows, contour palette and compact powder, sold by Claire’s Accessories because they tested positive for asbestos.
Claire’s disputed the FDA test results, saying “There is no evidence that any products sold by Claire’s are unsafe.” However, the company has gone on to remove the three products in question from stores as well as “any remaining talc based cosmetic products.”
Asbestos is a mineral which is often found near talc, a common ingredient in many cosmetics. If raw talc is not sufficiently purified the talc put into cosmetic products may be contaminated with asbestos.
The FDA has confirmed that it will work with Congress to update the regulatory framework that the agency has been operating under for more than 80 years for cosmetics.
Perhaps surprisingly, at present in America there are no legal requirements for any cosmetic manufacturer selling goods to American consumers to undergo safety tests.
Johnsons & Johnson and Claire’s Accessories are not the only companies which have been accused of selling products containing asbestos. A California woman won a lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive after a jury determined she developed mesothelioma from asbestos in the company’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder.
As yet there have been no successful cases brought in the UK against any of these companies. In the UK employers/former employers are pursued in legal cases where there has been negligent exposure to asbestos. This differs from the American system where the company which manufactured the asbestos product is pursued. It remains to be seen whether cases against cosmetic companies will be successfully pursued in the UK. This is very much an emerging area of law, which is likely to develop in the coming months/years.