Are we using right makeup? Know what is Asbestos which can lead you to cancer

There's no cure for asbestosis once it has developed, as it's not possible to reverse the damage to the lungs.

Top Indian News Desk
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When we think of asbestos and disease, our minds often drift to dilapidated floor tiles or insulation in industrial settings like shipbuilding or construction. It's a world of heavy industries, where men don hi-vis jackets and hard hats. What doesn't immediately come to mind is the beauty industry, where thoughts rarely stray to nude eye-shadow palettes or peachy pink blushers as potential health hazards.

Legal battles with cosmetic companies

Yet, a growing number of British women are embroiled in legal battles with leading cosmetic companies in the United States, claiming they developed mesothelioma—a particularly vicious, treatable yet incurable cancer of the lung, heart, or stomach—due to their use of beauty products.

The culprit they point to is talcum powder, a ubiquitous ingredient in makeup. Talc finds its way into bronzer, blusher, eye shadow, foundation, mascara, lipstick, and even dry shampoo for its excellent moisture absorption and anti-caking properties. Talc is a mineral mined from underground clay deposits, but it often harbors veins of asbestos.

Talc is asbestos-free

Despite assurances from major brands that their talc is asbestos-free and undergoes rigorous testing, allegations persist. Companies like Estée Lauder, which owns Clinique and Bobbi Brown, maintain that their products are safe for intended use.

While most long-term users of these products have not developed mesothelioma, the uneven distribution of asbestos in talc makes it challenging to detect. Additionally, luck has played a role, as asbestos fibers have not always found their way into the pleura (lining of the lungs) or peritoneum (lining of the abdomen) of users.

Asbestos fibers in tissue samples

For Hannah Fletcher, luck was not on her side. Diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma at 42, she underwent extensive treatments and legal action after asbestos fibers were found in her tissue samples. Her case against major cosmetic companies led to a substantial settlement, opening the floodgates for similar lawsuits by other affected British women.

Despite counterclaims from companies and industry bodies asserting talc's safety, recent research has challenged these assertions. Studies using transmission electron microscopy have found asbestos in some cosmetic products, raising questions about testing methods and industry standards.

Safer alternatives options

As legal battles rage on, victims like Sylvia Jackson, who is battling peritoneal mesothelioma, hope for access to life-saving treatments through successful claims. Meanwhile, the search for safer alternatives continues, with some brands turning to talc-free options.

The tragic legacy of asbestos-related diseases underscores the urgent need for greater scrutiny and regulation in the beauty industry. Until then, consumers are left to navigate labels and make informed choices—a small but necessary step towards safeguarding public health.

What is Asbestos? 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used in various industries for its heat resistance and insulating properties. In the context of makeup, asbestos can potentially be present in talcum powder, a common ingredient used in cosmetic products for its moisture-absorbing and anti-caking properties.

Talc is a mineral mined from underground deposits, and it can sometimes be contaminated with asbestos, which is also a naturally occurring mineral. Asbestos fibers are known to be harmful when inhaled or ingested, as they can become lodged in the body's tissues and potentially lead to serious health issues, including mesothelioma—a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen.

While cosmetic talc is generally believed to be safe, there have been concerns raised about the potential presence of asbestos in talcum powder used in cosmetic products. Some studies have found trace amounts of asbestos in certain cosmetic products containing talc, leading to increased scrutiny and calls for stricter regulations in the beauty industry.

Is asbestos cancerous? 

Yes, asbestos is carcinogenic, meaning it has the potential to cause cancer. Exposure to asbestos fibers, typically through inhalation or ingestion, can lead to various health conditions, including cancer. The most well-known cancer associated with asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen.

In addition to mesothelioma, asbestos exposure has been linked to other types of cancer, including lung cancer and ovarian cancer. The risk of developing asbestos-related cancers depends on factors such as the duration and intensity of exposure, as well as individual susceptibility.

Which disease can asbestos cause? 

Asbestos exposure can have serious and potentially life-threatening health consequences, making prevention and mitigation of exposure crucial for protecting public health.

Mesothelioma: A rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Mesothelioma is strongly linked to asbestos exposure, typically occurring decades after exposure.
Lung Cancer: Asbestos exposure increases the risk of developing lung cancer. This risk is particularly high among individuals who smoke and have been exposed to asbestos.

Asbestosis: A chronic lung disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers, leading to scarring and inflammation of the lung tissue. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness.

Pleural Plaques: Non-cancerous thickening of the pleural membranes surrounding the lungs. While pleural plaques themselves are not harmful, their presence indicates past exposure to asbestos and may increase the risk of developing other asbestos-related diseases.

Pleural Effusion: Build-up of fluid in the pleural space around the lungs, often resulting from inflammation caused by asbestos exposure. Pleural effusion can cause chest pain, difficulty breathing, and coughing.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma: A type of mesothelioma that affects the lining of the abdomen. Like other forms of mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma is associated with asbestos exposure.

Is there a cure for asbestos? 

There's no cure for asbestosis once it has developed, as it's not possible to reverse the damage to the lungs. But some treatments can help, including pulmonary rehabilitation-a programme of excercises and education to help manage your symptoms.