Expert Fact Checked

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Since 1999, Imerys has been a global miner and supplier of talc. Talc can often be contaminated with asbestos, which may lead to asbestos exposure. Imerys sold talc to companies like Avon and Johnson & Johnson. Many lawsuits claim products made with Imerys’ talc caused mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

01. History of Asbestos Use

Imerys History of Asbestos Use

Imerys Talc America, Inc. (Imerys) mines and supplies minerals, including talc. Often, talc can be contaminated with asbestos because the minerals develop together.

Imerys is a multinational industrial mineral and processing company. It grew from its parent company, Peñarroya, which started in 1880. Peñarroya extracted and processed non-ferrous metals. For more than a century, it acquired and merged with many other companies.

Quick Facts
  • Years in Operation: 1999 – Present
  • Location: Paris, France
  • Production: Mining and supplying industrial talc
  • Asbestos Trust: In development as of 2019

As Peñarroya’s focus on metal and mining shifted, the company’s name changed to Imetal. By 1999, the business was solely focused on processing talc and other industrial minerals. That year, the company was renamed Imerys.

Over the years, Imerys became more involved with talc mining and processing. For decades, it has been a global supplier of the mineral. In 2011, Imerys became the world leader in talc after buying the Luzenac Group. It supplied talc for many prominent companies like Avon and Johnson & Johnson (J&J).

Talc naturally develops alongside asbestos. Because of this, the two minerals are often combined during the mining process. Imerys’ talc may pose a risk of asbestos exposure to consumers, miners and other workers. Many lawsuits claim products made with Imerys’ talc led to asbestos exposure and related cancers.

02. Asbestos Products

Imerys Asbestos Products

For decades, Imerys has supplied talc for many companies’ products. For example, Imerys was the sole talc supplier for J&J products. This included its talcum baby powder. Recently, there has been outcry about J&J talc products and asbestos. Facing lawsuits, J&J recalled contaminated baby powders. Imerys also supplied talc for Avon products, like its Night Magic Talcum Powder. These products are facing similar allegations.

Thousands of consumers have filed lawsuits against Imerys for mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. Victims say its contaminated talc caused their cancer. In recent years, Imerys stopped talc sales and operations in North America. But the company continues global talc mining, processing and distribution.

Not only do consumers risk asbestos exposure from Imerys’ talc. People who work with the company also face exposure risks. Workers who mine or process contaminated talc may be exposed. Imerys once operated a mine and mill in Three Forks, Montana. This is the largest North American open-pit talc mine. In 2020, Imerys sold this Montana mine to Magris.

Imerys currently operates mines in Australia, Austria, Italy and France. The company also has talc processing plants in Belgium and Japan. There are occupational exposure risks for anyone involved in talc activities at these sites.

Some asbestos products made with Imerys’ talc include:

  • Avon’s Night Magic Talcum Powder
  • Crys-Talc®
  • ImerCare® Talc range
  • Imerys’ paints and coatings
  • J&J’s talcum-based baby powder
  • Vanderbilt’s industrial talc products
03. Occupational Exposure

Imerys and Occupational Exposure

Asbestos contamination often occurs when mining for talc. Using any products that contain contaminated talc may also lead to asbestos exposure. Thousands of lawsuits claim products made with Imerys’ talc contain asbestos. Victims say this exposure led to the development of their mesothelioma or ovarian cancer.

Consumers and workers may also have experienced asbestos exposure through Imerys’ talc. When mining for talc, there is generally a risk of asbestos contamination. Occupational exposure may also occur in factories while processing Imerys’ talc. Other companies’ workers may be exposed while manufacturing products with Imerys’ talc. Retail store workers and makeup artists may also be exposed to asbestos in these products.

Occupations Impacted by Imerys’ Asbestos Use
  • Asbestos miners
  • Coal miners
  • Cosmetic manufacturers
  • Cosmetic store personnel
  • Cosmetologists
  • Crane operators
  • Drilling engineers
  • Engineering geologists
  • Equipment operators
  • Excavators
  • Factory workers
  • Freight workers
  • Geologists
  • Industrial workers
  • Journeyperson millwrights
  • Laborers
  • Machine maintenance workers
  • Machine operators
  • Machinists
  • Makeup artists
  • ​​Metal fitters
  • Metallurgists
  • Mine workers
  • Minerals production technicians
  • Mining engineers
  • Models
  • Oil miners
  • Open cut examiners
  • Paint mixers and tinters
  • Petroleum engineers
  • Process control technicians
  • Quarry technicians
04. Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos Litigation Against Imerys

Since 2014, Imerys has been named in more than 16,000 lawsuits for asbestos-contaminated talc. Victims say products made with the company’s talc led to mesothelioma or ovarian cancer. Many cases also name companies like J&J and Avon. Evidence shows these companies knowingly sold asbestos-contaminated products. Some of these lawsuits gained national attention.

  • In 2017, a California jury awarded $22 million to a mesothelioma victim’s family. For decades, the plaintiff mixed talc and paint for a paint manufacturer. In 2015, doctors diagnosed him with mesothelioma. He and his wife filed a personal injury lawsuit against Imerys and other companies. The lawsuit alleged his asbestos exposure and resulting mesothelioma were from asbestos-contaminated talc. Cyprus Mines supplied this talc, which is a predecessor company of Imerys. The trial court found Imerys liable, and a jury found the company 40% at fault for his illness.
  • In 2018, ​​a victim filed a mesothelioma lawsuit against J&J and Imerys. Internal documents showed both companies knew the talc used in J&J’s baby powder had asbestos. The plaintiff used this baby powder for decades, claiming it caused his mesothelioma. The multi-phase trial resulted in liability for both companies. Imerys paid more than $25 million to the victim and his wife.
  • In 2019, a mesothelioma victim filed a lawsuit against J&J and Imerys. She alleged she developed the cancer from using its talc-based baby powder. Both companies settled with the victim for a total of $1.5 million.

In the meantime, Imerys followed a similar approach to other asbestos companies. It began the filing process for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company sold some assets, intending to fund future talc litigation. As of 2023, this process is still under legal investigation.

05. Asbestos Trust Fund

Imerys Asbestos Trust Fund

In 2019, Imerys had more than 14,000 pending lawsuits to address. That year, the company began a bankruptcy filing process, which is still in progress.

During Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a company creates a trust fund to help compensate victims. Imerys sold its North American Talc Subsidiaries for this purpose. This left much of the main company intact but would provide some funds to manage asbestos claims.

In 2021 and 2022, criticisms of the bankruptcy filing said Imerys did not have valid reorganization prospects. This is another requirement for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The judge determined that the bankruptcy can continue. However, Imerys must revisit and solidify its restructuring plan.

For now, victims may have various legal options. Those who believe Imerys’ talc led to their mesothelioma diagnosis can contact an asbestos law firm. Experienced mesothelioma lawyers can review exposure details. They can also guide clients through the entire filing process.