On January 9, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it will host an all-day public forum to discuss testing methods for asbestos in talc and cosmetic products containing talc on February 4, 2020.
According to the FDA, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss testing methods, terminology, and criteria that can be used to characterize and measure asbestos, as well as what the FDA preliminarily states may be “other potentially harmful elongate mineral particles (EMPs)” that may contaminate talc and cosmetics products that contain talc.
The forum also will include discussion of recently preliminary recommendations from the Interagency Working Group on Asbestos in Consumer Products (IWGACP)—an interagency working group formed in 2018 to support the development of standardized testing methods for asbestos and other EMPs.
IWGACP’s stated purpose is to (1) address terminology and definitions of asbestos and other EMPs, (2) recommend methodological improvements for measuring asbestos, and (3) recommend laboratory reporting standards for testing talc and talc-containing consumer products.
The FDA’s public forum comes less than two years after the FDA first began investigating reports of possible asbestos contamination in talc-containing cosmetics, beginning in July 2017. Following a 2019 survey of 50 talc-containing cosmetics products, the FDA confirmed the presence of asbestos in several talc-containing cosmetics using electron microscopy methods.
Standard methods of testing raw talc for asbestos were first implemented in the 1970s, and rely on optical microscopy methods such as x-ray diffraction or infrared spectroscopy. As the FDA has acknowledged, laboratories testing the same product using identical microscopy methods might still reach different conclusions due to a lack of uniform testing standards.
The FDA has stated that it does not intend for the forum to produce any decisions or new positions on specific regulatory issues. Rather, the forum is intended to gather additional data to improve consistency in terminology, analytical protocols, and data reporting for asbestos and other potentially harmful EMPs, and inform future discussions on health impacts.
Since 2017, there have been several voluntary recalls of cosmetic products by retailers in the US and globally due to the presence of asbestos.
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