The FDA is holding a hearing today to examine asbestos testing for talc powders and cosmetics. These hearings are the first time in almost 50 years the FDA has held such a discussion. The FDA announced the event after traces of asbestos; a known carcinogen has been found in recent tests of several products such as Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder.

The latest FDA reports have some U.S. lawmakers and other consumer advocate groups calling for stricter regulations and testing standards in the interest of public health.

Despite the recent attention, Johnson & Johnson has defended the safety of their talcum powder, despite almost 17,000 lawsuits at the end of 2019. The company has stood by claims that their testing has found no asbestos when testing from the same sample used by the FDA. 

The hearing focused mainly on testing standards that have been recommended by a selection of FDA and other government experts. These recommendations have been praised by public health experts nationwide in the face of a growing body of evidence showing that talc products can become contaminated with asbestos and that these products can cause ovarian cancer, even in very small amounts.

After decades of the talc industry mostly being allowed to self-police with little FDA oversight, that period appears to be coming to an end. Until now, the FDA has never required manufacturers to test for asbestos in the past. However, after hearing from the panel of experts, including testing experts, consumer advocates, and industry representatives, this period may be coming to an end.

The panel gathered and came together with several recommendations. Most importantly, there is a new recommendation to classify micro powders small enough to be drawn into the lungs to be classified as potentially harmful. The industry does not currently categorize these particles as asbestos.

Additionally, a government toxicologist said that there is a wide range of spear-shaped minerals, both asbestos and non-asbestos look-alike minerals can trigger cancer as well and should also be included in testing.

Christopher Weis, a representative of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), additionally explained that there are elongated mineral particles or EMP’s in talc. Standard testing does not detect these and these are also considered hazardous. EMP’s can be created through the milling process that breaks down contaminants, according to Reuters.

Reuters also mentioned another expert, Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs for Environmental Working Group (EWS). Faber stated that the FDA relies on the honor system that has been in place since the 1970s. He also called for more strict testing and called on the FDA to begin adding a warning label on talc products that the product may contain cancer-causing carcinogens.

As the meeting concludes, it is not expected for there to be any decisions made today. The focus throughout the entire day was on gathering feedback from the various consumer, government and industry experts. It is anticipated that the FDA will shortly release a timetable for the implementation of new rules. For those interested in updates, remember to come back regularly, as we will update you with the latest developments.

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