Lab Tests Reveal Asbestos-contaminated Talc is Safe

Twelve types of baby powder that were banned from sale after being found to contain traces of asbestos have been reinstated after extensive lab testing revealed they are not contaminated
A person uses baby power in Phnom Penh, September 6, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
A person uses baby power in Phnom Penh, September 6, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Talcum powder that authorities banned in August after deadly asbestos was detected in it is now allowed back on sale in Cambodia.

The General Department of Consumer Protection, Competition and Anti-Fraud (CCF) said in a news release on September 5 that 12 baby powder products can now be re-imported and re-distributed in Cambodia after obtaining results from an Australian laboratory that confirmed they do not contain asbestos.

“After a thorough review and analysis of product models under close cooperation with Australian development partners, CCF would like to announce that companies will be able to import and redistribute baby talcum powder products,” CCF said in the release.

The methods for analysis of asbestos in the laboratory of the General Department of CCF were provided and trained by a team of Australian experts using a polarized light microscopy (PLM) system. In principle, asbestos that looks like minerals in talcum powder can be identified requiring analysis using more sophisticated and specific methods, the press release added.

The General Department of CCF has sought the assistance of OCCSAFE Australia to send suspected samples to be analyzed at the COHLABS Laboratory in Australia for verification, as third-party laboratories are accredited.

"The COHLABS laboratory performed the analysis using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), a state-of-the-art technique, and found that 12 samples of infant and powder products were not found to contain asbestos."

Director-general of CCF, Phan Oun, said authorities have carried out extensive testing on the 12 types of baby powder and have found no traces of asbestos. He added parents can remain confident that these brands are safe to use.

“We have never tested before, but this time we did tests both in the lab in the General Department inside and outside the country, so they (parents) can trust these products,” Oun told Kiripost on Tuesday.

Em Sophalen has a 17-month-old daughter and said her baby has used powder since the day she was born but it has not affected her baby’s skin.

When she heard about the ban last month, she was shocked and is still concerned about the safety of these products.

“I was very shocked at the time because I also had used many types of baby powder products, but it never affected her skin. I believe in experts, but I am still a bit worried about these brands,” Sophalen told Kiripost.

Ros Sreyvong has a seven-month-old baby and said that despite tests by authorities showing the baby powder products are safe and contain no asbestos, she is still worried and will take more precautions than before for her baby’s health.

“I still worry because I am a new mother. When I decide to buy materials for my baby, I need to ask for advice from anyone who has a lot of experience, especially a doctor,” Sreyvong told Kiripost.

She hopes that the relevant ministries pay more attention to the safety of products and find products that are harmful to protect users.