On Jan. 13, the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued an interagency white paper titled, the Interagency Working Group on Asbestos in Consumer Products (IWGACP) Scientific Opinions on Testing Methods for Asbestos in Cosmetic Products Containing Talc.
According to an FDA press release, the white paper outlines “scientific opinions on the testing of talc-containing cosmetic products to ensure reliable detection and identification of asbestos particles if present.”
For decades, asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma and other diseases including ovarian cancer. Dr. Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, did not mention mesothelioma or ovarian cancer nor any other illnesses linked to mesothelioma specifically. However, according to Mesothelioma.net, Dr. Mayne acknowledged, “We have become aware that methods employed by some industry members to test for asbestos in talc-containing cosmetic products may not always detect the presence of asbestos. That’s why an interagency working group sought to take a state-of-the-science look at available methods.”
To address testing inconsistencies and inadequacies, the white paper outlined the following testing recommendations in regards to protocols:
- Utilizing both Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) methods to identify and report the presence of asbestos and other similar particles;
- Reporting all asbestos and other similar particles greater than or equal to (≥) 0.5 µm in length with a length to width aspect ratio (AR) ≥ 3:1;
- Providing analytical reports with adequate documentation of findings;
- Establishing policies and procedures covering rigorous training, quality assurance, and quality control, to accompany testing methods, to ensure testing laboratories are qualified and their qualifications are reviewed on a regular basis; and
- Encouraging future research on reference materials and sample preparation methods to support standardized test methods for the detection of asbestos in talc and talc-containing cosmetics.
These recommendations are welcome by mesothelioma and ovarian cancer plaintiffs and advocates. However, it remains to be seen whether or not the testing protocols will be enacted.
According to the FDA press release, the next steps include preparing an external peer review of the white paper and “continuing the agency’s testing of talc-containing cosmetic products for asbestos in 2022.”
Beyond that, any other guidelines or next steps will involve a public process to allow interested parties to provide comments to the agency.
The FDA white paper was issued roughly two years after a public meeting on asbestos testing.
Over 35,000 individuals have filed talc ovarian cancer claims against Johnson & Johnson (J&J). In May 2020, J&J discontinued selling its iconic Johnson’s talc baby powder in Canada and the U.S. after declining sales and as a hedge against talc litigation.