UPDATE 7/20: Representatives for Justice have reached out to say that the report is simply inaccurate.
"A third party ISO-certified testing lab concluded there is no asbestos in our Just Shine Shimmer Powder product. Reports suggesting that the product contains asbestos are simply inaccurate. As part of our investigation and out of abundance of caution we found it necessary to quickly provide answers to our customers about our product (Item number 192307, or SKU number 19052777). Customers with any questions are encouraged to call our customer service associates at 1-866-246-5822 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org."
What could possibly be worse than finding out the makeup you use contains asbestos? Finding out the makeup your child uses contains asbestos.
The news team at WTVD, an ABC station in Durham, North Carolina, is reporting that its recent investigation into the ingredients of cosmetics aimed at tweens has revealed frightening results about a product sold at Justice, a national retail chain selling girls' apparel. According to the Scientific Analytical Institute in Greensboro, Just Shine Shimmer Powder tested positive for dangerous asbestos.
"In this powder designed for children, they could die an untimely death in their 30s or 40s because of the exposure to asbestos in this product," Sean Fitzgerald, the lab's Director of Research and Analytical Services, told WTVD.
Specifically, the lab found tremolite asbestos fibers, which contaminated the talc used in the Just Shine Shimmer Powder. Fitzgerald says the mineral reserve from which the talc was derived should have been tested for contamination; if it had been tested, it never would have been used by the manufacturer because the FDA prohibits asbestos-contaminated talc in cosmetics.
"Fibers like this get into your breathing zone, and when you inhale, these fibers can get into the lung and go to the very bottom of the lung, and that is exactly where you have the greatest likelihood of asbestos to cause disease," Fitzgerald said. "Children should not be allowed to breathe it. If a 10-year-old inhaled this fiber today, when he's 50 years old, it's still there." According to the National Cancer Institute, it can take at least 20 years for malignant mesothelioma to form after asbestos exposure.
As if the asbestos findings aren't scary enough, the lab also found the heavy metals barium, chromium, selenium and lead in Just Shine Shimmer Powder.
"The more lead you have in your system, the more negative health effects you're going to have," Fitzgerald explained. "Any amount of lead can be absorbed through the skin and go into your blood, and contribute to your overall poisoning of your blood."
When WTVD's Diane Wilson showed Justice the lab results, the company issued a statement: "Justice is committed to the safety and integrity of our products. Upon receiving the inquiry from WTVD, we immediately began an independent investigation. We cannot speculate regarding the matter until we have more information. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, we have stopped the sale of this product while we investigate."
Birnur Aral, Ph.D., Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute's Health, Beauty and Environmental Sciences Lab, stresses that instances like this are examples of how cosmetics need to be regulated as tightly as pharmaceuticals and food.
"The Personal Care Safety Act, a bipartisan bill, has gained support from both small companies and giants of the industry as well as advocacy groups, and it has the best chance of modernizing our outdated cosmetics laws," Dr. Aral says. "Good Housekeeping has supported the bill for over a year. While it is not a cure-all in my opinion, it is a very good start toward safer cosmetics." (You can voice your own support at a petition here.)
Just Shine Shimmer Powder is no longer available for purchase on the brand's website, but it has not been added to their recalls section yet. Fitzgerald urges those who own the powder to stop using it and to "treat it like a deadly poison, because it is." The news station also notes in their report that other Justice products they tested did not come back positive for asbestos.