Health Team

Claire's pulls children's makeup kits over asbestos concerns

The international retailer Claire's Stores Inc. said it took nine makeup products off the shelves following a report by CNN affiliate WJAR-TV that tremolite asbestos was found in the makeup.

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Sandee LaMotte (CNN)
(CNN) — The international retailer Claire's Stores Inc. said it took nine makeup products off the shelves following a report by CNN affiliate WJAR-TV that tremolite asbestos was found in the makeup.

If swallowed or inhaled, tremolite asbestos can lead to lung damage and cancer, including mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly form of cancer.

In a statement Friday, Claire's said initial testing found the cosmetics to be asbestos-free, but that "out of an abundance of caution, additional testing is underway."

"We have also confirmed that the talcum ingredient supply is from a certified asbestos-free European vendor," the statement added.

Claire's announced Wednesday it had "retained an independent laboratory to test the cited products in order to determine whether the recent news reports (of asbestos in the makeup) are accurate. In the interim, we have stopped sales of the products and are issuing full refunds to concerned customers. As always, the safety of our customers and products is our top priority."

The full list of products includes Ultimate Mega Make Up Set, Metallic Hot Pink Glitter 48 Piece Makeup Set, Pink Glitter Cellphone Makeup Compact, Bedazzled Rainbow Heart Makeup Set, Rainbow Bedazzled Star Make Up Set, Rainbow Glitter Heart Shaped Makeup Set, Mint Glitter Make Up Set, Rainbow Bedazzled Rectangle Make Up Set and Pink Glitter Palette with Eyeshadow & Lip Gloss.

CNN reached out to Claire's for comment and has not received a reply. In addition to makeup, the company also sells jewelry and accessories aimed at the teen, tween and kid crowd, and says it operates over 2,500 stores under the Claire's and Icing brands in 47 countries.

What the tests found

A Rhode Island mother was the first to report the potential problem after she saw her daughter playing with an aqua-colored glitter makeup kit from Claire's. Kristi Warner decided to have it tested for asbestos, according to Sean Fitzgerald of the Scientific Analytical Institute, which specializes in testing for toxic substances.

Warner works for a Rhode Island law firm that is one Fitzgerald's clients.

"I'm partly to blame," said Fitzgerald, who is director of research and legal services for the Greensboro, North Carolina-based lab. "I had just taught the employees at Deaton Law Firm, who specialize in asbestos litigation, about the dangers of asbestos and talc and what to look for. So she decided to send the makeup kit to me."

Fitzgerald says he was "shocked" when he saw the results of his tests.

"There were high levels of asbestos in the first color of eye shadow, so I tested three other colors and found it again," he said. "Then the firm and I had friends and relatives across the country go out and buy that aqua-colored kit and some others and send those to me for testing."

Seventeen different products were purchased in nine different cities within a two-week period, Fitzgerald said, except for one makeup kit that was "purchased several years ago."

He said in a letter to the law firm that he found asbestos in 24 talc-based makeup items from those 17 kits, including eye shadows, blushes and compact powders. The kit purchased several years ago was one of those that tested positive, he said.

Asbestos becomes dangerous when particles or fibers enter the lungs or stomach. At that point, experts say, no level of asbestos is considered safe. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established standards, depending on the type of workplace exposure, but generally sets permissible exposure limits at 1.0 asbestos fibers per cubic centimeter over a 30-minute period.

Asbestos is a commercial name given to a cluster of six minerals that occur naturally in the environment. For decades, asbestos was mined and widely used for building construction, fireproofing and textile products because the fibers do not conduct electricity and are naturally resistant to heat and fire.

Since the health dangers have become more widely known, many of those products have been removed from the consumer market. But they can still be found in many homes and businesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and "continue to pose a health risk to workers and others."

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