On Sunday, the news broke by a team of investigative reporters that a popular line of makeup for girls and tweens sold by Justice Stores contains asbestos and four different heavy metals. This discovery was made when the reporters sent a sample of Just Shine Shimmer Powder to a lab at the Scientific Analytical Institute in Greensboro, where technicians discovered the contaminants.
“I would treat it like a deadly poison, because it is,” said Sean Fitzgerald, Director of Research and Analytical Services at the Institute, adding that the results were “alarming.”
Perhaps most alarming is the fact that these products are marketed towards children. While cosmetics and toiletries for adults can contain harmful substances, it’s even worse knowing that young girls and teenagers could be put at risk of developing serious health conditions as their bodies are still developing. In fact, youngsters may be even more at risk of long-term health problems than adults, because they are still growing and changing on a regular basis.
Asbestos in Cosmetic Talc
In 2009 – 2010, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration performed tests on 34 brands of cosmetics over fears that they might contain asbestos. However, the tests all came up negative, and since then, the FDA has taken a wait-and-see approach to further regulations, preferring to address issues on a case-by-case, product-by-product basis.
Many people believe that asbestos is banned, but while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently undergoing an extensive review of the substance with an eye towards possibly banning it in the long run, asbestos can still find its way into many different products. And of course, older homes and buildings may be riddled with asbestos, in everything from insulation to concrete to decorative features like paint and wall textures.
However, one of the most nefarious ways that children can become exposed to asbestos is through talc-based products, like makeup or baby powder. Both talc and asbestos are forms of magnesium silicate, and as such they often occur together in natural deposits. While there are procedures for removing asbestos from talc, this latest case shows that perhaps stricter controls are required.
Heavy Metal Poisoning
While the presence of asbestos has been the main focus of reporting around Justice makeup, the other contaminants are just as concerning. In particular, four heavy metals – barium, chromium, lead, and selenium – were discovered in the makeup marketed at children.
Lead is perhaps the most well known of these potential poisons, and parents have long been aware of the dangers of lead-based paints and lead pipes in older homes. The risks of lead poisoning have been in the national news in recent years in stories about cities like Flint, Michigan, where high levels of the metal were found in the municipal water supply. The symptoms of lead poisoning include everything from relatively mild effects – like abdominal pain and headaches – to more severe and long-term effects like infertility, seizures, comas, or even death.
The other three heavy metals may be less famous, but they can still be dangerous:
- Barium: High levels of barium can affect a person’s potassium level, which in turn leads to cardiovascular and muscle problems, up to and including blood pressure changes, tachycardia (abnormal electrical impulse in the heart), and paralysis. It can also cause tremors and seizures.
- Chromium: The most serious effects of chromium occur when the metal is inhaled (such as in a powder form), ultimately causing breathing problems like bronchitis, asthma, and even polyps within the respiratory tract. Chromium has also been linked to certain types of cancer, including lung, nasal, and sinus cancers.
- Selenium: The most common symptom of selenium toxicity is fatigue, but more severe effects can occur as well. These include hair loss, joint pain, neuropathy (numbness or pain in nerve endings), and paralysis.
While the risk of developing heavy metal toxicity is low, given that only trace amounts were found in Justice’s makeup brand, it is still a concern. The body may not be able to expel some types of heavy metal, and little amounts inhaled or ingested can lead to cumulative effects over a long period of time.
What to Do If You Bought Justice Makeup
The good news is that Justice Stores have acknowledged the problems with their Just Shine Shimmer Powder products and want to make things right with their customers. “Justice has a long and strong history of concern for the health and safety of our girls,” the company recently stated on its Facebook page. “We are deeply committed to the safety and integrity of our products.”
As a result, the company has issued a recall and pulled the entire cosmetics line from its shelves and online marketplace. For those who have already bought Just Shine Shimmer Powder, you can bring the product back to a Justice retail location for a full refund of the purchase price.