Thai, Malaysian Baby Powders Banned After Asbestos Detected

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Baby powder. (Austin Kirk/Creative Commons)

The consumer protection office flagged 12 different baby powder products, all imported from Thailand and Malaysia, for containing asbestos, suspending them from sale on Cambodian shelves as of Tuesday.

The Commerce Ministry’s consumer protection and fraud repression department said in a statement that it had ordered import firm DKSH to suspend 12 talcum and cornstarch baby powder products in which it detected asbestos, a carcinogen banned as a construction material in many other countries but not in Cambodia.

According to the statement, the department found asbestos in 10 types of Thai-manufactured baby powder from brands Johnson & Johnson, D-nee, Kodomo, Bhaesaj and Babi Mild, and two from Malaysian brands Laffair Be Love and Pureen.

“Asbestos is banned for domestic products. It can impact health and it can cause cancer,” the statement said.

Phan Oun, director general for the consumer protection department, said he wasn’t sure how many products contained asbestos because they’ve been on the market for years. 

“I can’t confirm because we don’t have a specific number, but we saw the batch number and did the tests,” he said. “But we also give [the brands] time for the industry to do their own test.”

He added that the manufacturer is supposed to test products for contaminants like asbestos when they first put the product on the market.

DKSH Cambodia could not be reached for comment.

Oun wouldn’t say why the consumer protection department was motivated to test the baby powders for asbestos.

“If we find out [something is contaminated], we also tell them to do a test by themselves too. However we reconfirmed a few times and we still found it,” he said.

In the past week, Johnson & Johnson announced it was pulling talc-based baby powder products globally as it faces 38,000 lawsuits due to contamination with asbestos, according to Reuters.

According to the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, Asian countries consumed more than 80% of the world’s asbestos trade in 2021, primarily used in construction products. The ILO estimated that the product caused 209,000 occupational deaths per year, ABAN continued.

The Labor Ministry said in a July 2019 report that it did not have the capacity to test for asbestos in construction products as of 2018, but the country sent samples to Australia, with cooperation from the Australian labor justice group Apheda. Apheda country manager Veasna Nuon declined to comment, directing reporters to look at the group’s report instead.

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