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Sales of Asbestos-tainted Cosmetics Banned

Posted April. 06, 2009 08:02,   


The Korea Food and Drug Administration yesterday banned the sale of cosmetics suspected of containing asbestos-tainted talc.

The watchdog said asbestos-contaminated talcum has been sold to some 300 cosmetics companies and drug manufacturers in addition to makers of baby powder. All got their talc from supplier Duksan Reagents, which imports more than 20 percent of Korea’s talc demand.

Yoo Moo-yeong, director of the administration’s drug safety division, said, “We will impose sales ban on all products supplied by cosmetics companies that use Duksan’s talc as soon as we confirm the final list of such companies Monday morning.”

A sales ban on drugs will be implemented after conducting additional reviews.

∇ Cosmetics and drugs containing talc

The watchdog is primarily inspecting products that use talc in bulk. Talc is used not only in baby powder and powder-type cosmetics, but also in the process of drug manufacturing to prevent pills from sticking to each other.

Talc accounts for 70-90 percent of all ingredients in baby powder and 40-50 percent in face powder. The substance contained in drugs is under one percent of a pill’s weight.

A food safety official said, “We have found no cases of asbestos contamination in the talc supplied for use in food materials, and hence there is no safety concern.” Talc is used to prevent chewing gum or candy from sticking to packaging.

The food watchdog is also under fire for knowing of the risk of talc in an independent report released five years ago, but not taking safety action.

Rep. Shin Sang-jin of the ruling Grand National Party, a member of the parliamentary health, welfare and family affairs committee, said, “A report submitted to the Korea Food and Drug Administration in 2004 by ChungAng Univ. pharmacy professor Kim Chang-jong warned of the health risks of talc, but the administration disregarded the report for five years.”

▽ Confused consumers

Proper action against the contaminated talc has failed to be taken, with products containing talc recalled without specific guidelines. Manufacturers are voluntarily recalling products without government control, so consumers seeking to return products and get refunds are having trouble.

Industry sources said makers of baby powder in which asbestos-contaminated talc was detected are receiving a flood of calls demanding recalls and refunds. Boryung Medience, whose baby powder was found to contain contaminated talc, has received as many as 6,100 requests for refunds and recalls between Wednesday and yesterday.

The company said, “We are operating a 24-hour customer service center and exchanging defective products for new ones with no asbestos, or giving full refunds.”

Other companies, however, are avoiding recalls or responsibility, causing anger among consumers. For products whose producers and sellers are different, companies are playing a blame game to add to the confusion.

Certain people who say they suffered damage due to tainted baby powder are taking legal action. The Korea Federation for Environmental Movement said its consumer compliant center for damage from asbestos contamination received 220 complaints from Friday through yesterday.

The civic group plans to conduct a consumer damage survey, mobilize plaintiffs, and sue for mental damage against manufacturers.

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