For the first time in nearly 50 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration examined asbestos testing for talc powders and cosmetics at a hearing on Tuesday, after traces of the known carcinogen were found in several such products, including Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder.
Citing those FDA findings, some U.S. lawmakers and consumer advocates have called for stricter safety regulations to protect public health.
J&J, the market leader in talc powders, has defended the safety of its talc. The company said tests by labs it hired found no asbestos in samples from the same bottle the FDA examined – except for some the company attributed to contamination from a laboratory air conditioner.
In a statement on Tuesday, the company said it looks forward to the FDA’s “thorough review of the most effective and reliable ways to test for asbestos in cosmetic talc.”
The hearing on asbestos testing in talc, the FDA’s first since 1971, focused on testing standards recommended by a panel of government experts. The recommendations, published last month, embrace positions held by public health authorities and experts for plaintiffs who in lawsuits allege that contaminated talc products caused their cancers.
An industry trade group criticized the recommendations, saying they would not improve product safety.
For decades, the cosmetic talc industry has largely been allowed to police itself with little FDA oversight. Although talc and asbestos are similar minerals often found together in the ground, the FDA has never required manufacturers to test for the carcinogen.
One of the most significant recommendations from the expert panel is that mineral particles found in talc products small enough to be drawn into the lungs, even those the industry would not technically categorize as asbestos, should be counted as potentially harmful.
In its report, the panel said both asbestos and look-alike minerals are suspected of causing “similar pathological outcomes,” so the “distinction is irrelevant.”
At Tuesday’s hearing, a government toxicologist said a wide range of spear-shaped mineral particles – including but not limited to asbestos – can trigger the development of cancer and should be part of any new testing regime.
This article was originally published on Reuters