Kristi Warner, 30, is an operations manager at Deaton Law Firm in Providence, R.I., whose firm represents clients diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects the heart and lungs, often as a result of exposure to asbestos, a toxic mineral present in household appliances and industrial materials.
It can also be found in cosmetics such as blush and eyeshadow because of the use of talc, a mineral that gives makeup an opaque finish without looking cakey. According to the Food and Drug Administration, both talc and asbestos are in close proximity underground, which increases the odds of asbestos contamination during the mining of talc.
The FDA also clarifies that most cosmetics don’t need FDA approval, and, despite one study that showed no asbestos fibers in cosmetic products containing talc, there is no proof that all talc-based makeup is asbestos-free.
So, when Mackenzie was given a glitter makeup kit from Claire’s, an international makeup and jewelry company for kids and tweens, Warner’s radar went up. “Mackenzie has started to become interested in makeup — she occasionally wears it for ballet and tap recitals and she watches me get ready for work in the morning,” Warner tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “She had used the kit before I had a chance to review the ingredients, and when I looked, I only saw that the product was made in China.”
At the time, Warner was handling a case involving talc, so when sending her client’s evidence to the lab, she added her daughter’s makeup kit as a personal request. “Mackenzie overheard me talking to my co-worker and ran over and said, ‘Do you think my makeup has asbestos in it?’” says Warner. “I explained to her that we had to test it, but it crushed me because she kept asking for it back.”
A few months later, Warner received the results: The makeup kit tested positive for asbestos. “Mackenzie asked, ‘Am I going to die?’ I told her, ‘You’re safe for now, and we’ll monitor you to make sure you stay safe,’” says Warner. “She’ll be my age when this is a concern for her and that’s what crushes me.”
She adds, “With asbestos, as it relates to mesothelioma, there is no safe level of exposure. Once the fibers are trapped in your lungs, it takes 20 to 40 years to develop.”
To ensure Mackenzie’s kit was not an isolated incident, Warner and her managing partner asked friends and colleagues from all over the country to mail products from their local Claire’s to the lab that tested Mackenzie’s kit. All 17 products, from eyeshadow to blushes and compact powders, tested positive for asbestos.
On Dec. 23, the company, which did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment, tweeted the following message:
“At Claire’s, the safety of our customers is of paramount importance, and we are passionate about the safety and integrity of our products. We work closely with our vendors to ensure our products are tested and assessed in line with the relevant country regulations and guidelines.
“As a result of today’s inquiries from WJAR-TV, we have taken the precautionary measure of pulling the items in question from sale, and will be conducting an immediate investigation into the alleged issues. Once we have more information and have the results of the investigation, we will take the necessary action.”
Warner is satisfied with the speed of the Claire’s response and wants parents to know the problem is bigger than one retailer. “The government standards for detecting asbestos are too low,” she says. “Talc is present in both kid and adult products, and prices don’t matter — both high- and low-end cosmetics have tested positive for asbestos.”
The mom now avoids cosmetics that contain talc and has switched from powder to liquid products. “I want to do the right thing and get the information out there,” she says. “I didn’t want other kids to open similar makeup kits for Christmas.”
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