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

(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."

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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.


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