Asbestos is a naturally-occurring group of minerals that are resistant to heat, corrosion, and electricity. Due to these effective qualities, asbestos has historically been used as an additive in a variety of products, ranging from store-bought items to construction materials. Unfortunately, asbestos fibers are extremely dangerous to human health when inhaled or ingested. The small fibers can become embedded in lung tissues and organ linings, putting individuals at risk of developing different cancers and illnesses.
Historically, asbestos reached its peak in the 1960s and 70s. It was primarily used in construction projects, including that of residential homes and commercial buildings, in products such as insulation, cement, sealants, tiles, and roofing. This was prior to researchers discovering the health risks individuals may face when exposed to asbestos. Today, asbestos deposits are no longer mined in the United States, but other countries continue to mine the material. There is not also an asbestos ban in the U.S., so asbestos can still be imported from other countries under certain limitations.
What Products Can be Contaminated with Asbestos?
While we can all be vigilant of the asbestos materials that may be present in our older homes, there is also a risk of asbestos exposure in a variety of consumer products that we use every day. Keep in mind the following items and how they may be putting individuals at risk of asbestos-related diseases.
1. Baby Powder
Baby powder brands contain cosmetic talcum powder, or talc, which can be contaminated with asbestos fibers. Talc and asbestos deposits naturally occur near each other in the ground, and when mined, raw talc can contain traces of asbestos. Corporations known for their talc-based products, like Johnson & Johnson, have been at the center of consumer legal battles for the past few years. J&J faced more than 9,000 cases of consumers claiming their talc-based baby powder led them to develop ovarian cancer. Other diseases associated with asbestos-contaminated talcum powder include mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Similar to baby powder, a variety of cosmetic products also use talcum powder as a primary ingredient. Talc is most commonly found in powder-based makeups like eyeshadows and blush. In recent years, the FDA has been actively investigating makeup products as more claims of asbestos contamination have been made. In 2019, popular teen star JoJo Siwa’s makeup set, sold at Claire’s, tested positive for asbestos and was recalled. The cosmetic brand Jmkcoz, which sold products on Amazon and eBay, was also exposed for producing eyeshadow palettes tainted with asbestos. The palettes have since been removed from these websites.
Asbestos was added to commercial products from the late 1800s to the late 1900s. The minerals were popularly used in moldable plastic products that could withstand high temperatures. These plastic products included children’s toys, automotive parts, household appliances, and different components of large machines or equipment.
4. Other Consumer Products
Common consumer goods that may also be contaminated with asbestos include fertilizer, crockpots, hair dryers, ironing rests and board covers, and kitchen stove mats.
What are the Health Risks Linked to Asbestos Exposure?
It’s important to be aware of the household and consumer items that may be putting you and your family at risk of asbestos exposure. Prevention is key when considering the devastating health risks linked to inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers. The most common asbestos-related cancers include mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and laryngeal cancer.
Mesothelioma is a widely-known cancer that is solely caused by asbestos exposure. Approximately 3,000 cases of mesothelioma arise each year, and the median age of victims is about 74 years old. Because asbestos fibers are present in a variety of products, equipment, homes, and job sites, about 20 million people are at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. Though it’s a rare cancer, understanding the causes and symptoms can help in diagnosing mesothelioma patients and in delivering an accurate prognosis. Common signs of the cancer include the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Coughing or wheezing
- Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Fever and night sweats
- Fluid buildup
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
Understanding the health risks linked to asbestos inhalation and ingestion, and how different products can be contaminated with asbestos fibers, can aid in awareness and prevention efforts. Staying up-to-date on the brands that produce asbestos-contaminated goods and the research linking asbestos to various illnesses can also help further your understanding of asbestos and the potential risks you and your loved ones may face.
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