01. Asbestos Use in Consumer Products
Why Was Asbestos Used in Consumer Products?
Asbestos was used in a variety of products for its natural heat resistance, strength and chemical durability. The mineral was a common additive in products exposed to high temperatures and corrosive chemicals. As a result, asbestos could be found in many consumer products.
Asbestos Consumer Products History At-a-Glance
- Years of Manufacture: Early 1900s – Present
- Places Used: Cloth, cosmetics, heating elements, household appliances
- Asbestos Use Banned: No
- Noteworthy Brands: 3M™, Conair Corporation, Hamilton Beach®, Johnson & Johnson
Consumer products are produced and sold directly to the consumer with no intermediary, such as a construction company. While asbestos is most well known for its inclusion in industrial goods, it can be just as dangerous in consumer goods.
Most asbestos-contaminated consumer goods fall into the following categories:
- Cosmetics and personal care items
- Hairstyling devices
- Heat-resistant fabric goods
- Household appliances
- Talcum powder products
Asbestos use in the United States took place primarily from the early 1900s to 1980. Consumer products contained the mineral at different times. For example, many heat-powered hairstyling devices used asbestos filters in the 1960s and 1970s, while some cigarettes had asbestos filters in the 1950s. In the late 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enacted laws to regulate asbestos.
These laws curbed asbestos use but did not eliminate the risk of exposure. Individuals may still come into contact with asbestos consumer goods. Today, exposure typically occurs in one of three ways:
- Contact with asbestos-containing products manufactured before 1980
- Asbestos contamination in co-occurring minerals, such as talc or vermiculite
- Contact with goods still allowed to contain up to 1% asbestos
Dangers of Asbestos in Consumer Products
Any amount of asbestos exposure can result in serious conditions. These occur when asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, irritating the delicate linings of internal organs.
Exposure to asbestos in consumer products may cause:
- Asbestos lung cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Mesothelioma (pleural, peritoneal and pericardial)
- Ovarian cancer
Researchers have examined the risks associated with asbestos exposure in various consumer products.
For example, a 2020 study examined the connection between mesothelioma and talcum powder products. The study authors found 75 cases of mesothelioma among individuals exposed to asbestos-contaminated cosmetic talcum powders. There were no other asbestos exposures among individuals included in the study. The most common types of asbestos fibers recorded in the study were anthophyllite and tremolite.
Difficulty Diagnosing Asbestos Diseases Related to Consumer Product Exposure
Mesothelioma risk from consumer products can be difficult to measure. Many individuals are not aware of their exposure risks. As a result, some mesothelioma cases seem not to have a definitive exposure source.
In addition, mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases have a long latency period. This means mesothelioma symptoms may take up to 50 years to present after asbestos exposure. This can make determining the source of exposure more difficult to pinpoint. Once diagnosed, experienced asbestos lawyers can assist patients in determining when exposure occurred.
02. List of Asbestos Consumer Products
Asbestos Consumer Products List
Asbestos has been incorporated into consumer products for a variety of reasons. For items such as slow cookers and hair dryers, asbestos was a cheap option for heat resistance and fireproofing.
In some cases, these goods may still contain asbestos. Goods produced in the United States before 1980 or currently produced overseas are not regulated by current United States asbestos regulations.
While asbestos was intentionally added to many consumer products, it also occurred in some instances due to contamination.
The presence of asbestos in fertilizer, some insulation and talcum powder products was not always intentional. Rather, asbestos often naturally occurs near vermiculite and talc, the minerals used in these products. As a result, contamination occurred during mining. The regular use of these asbestos-contaminated products could put consumers and their families at risk of exposure.
Consumer products made with or contaminated by asbestos include:
- 3M™ masks
- Asbestos felt roofing and flooring
- Asbestos gloves and mitts
- Asbestos mittens
- Ashtray covers
- Automotive parts
- Baby powder
- Bottle warmers
- Building materials
- Cigarette filters
- Coffee pots
- Curling irons
- Fake snow
- Hair dryers
- Household appliances
- Iron rests
- Ironing boards and covers
- Popcorn poppers
- Potting soil
- Slow cookers
- Stove mats
- Talcum powder products
- Washing machines
Products used in construction and automotive repair may have also exposed non-occupational users during DIY projects, updates and/or repairs.
These products were manufactured and sold by a variety of asbestos companies. Additionally, many of these products may be sold under different brand names, making exposure and health risks even harder to track.
Companies That Produced Asbestos Consumer Products
- Bondex International, Inc.
- Colgate-Palmolive Company
- Conair Corporation
- Fisher Scientific
- General Electric Company (GE®)
- Guard-Line, Inc.
- J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.
- Johnson & Johnson (J&J)
- Kelly-Moore Paint Company, Inc.
- Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M™)
- Montgomery Ward Inc.
- National Gypsum Company
- Norelco (and its parent company, North American Philips Corporation)
- Proctor Electric Company
- Schick, Inc.
- Scovill Manufacturing Company (under the brands Hamilton Beach® and Dominion)
- Sears, Roebuck and Co.
- Sperry Rand Corporation (Remington)
- Steel Grip Inc.
- Textile Mills
- United States Gypsum Corporation (USG Corporation)
- Whittaker, Clark & Daniels, Inc.
- Wolf Manufacturing Co.
- Yorkville Craftsman
These companies were often aware of the health risks associated with asbestos exposure. However, many chose not to take proper precautions and warn employees or consumers of these hazards. As a result, thousands of individuals may have come into contact with asbestos in consumer goods.
03. Consumer Products & Asbestos Exposure
Who Is at Risk of Asbestos Exposure From Consumer Products?
Individuals who have come into contact with products contaminated with asbestos could be at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. Occupational exposure is one of the most common ways to come into contact with asbestos. There are numerous occupations at risk of asbestos exposure from consumer products.
Occupations at Risk of Exposure From Asbestos Consumer Products
- Appliance installers
- Appliance repair personnel
- Automotive workers
- Bakelite or plastic factory workers
- Construction workers
- Estheticians and skin care specialists
- Product manufacturers
Occupational exposure is not the only way to come into contact with asbestos products. For example, asbestos consumer products may be bought by professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike. These products may pose a greater risk to non-professionals due to their close proximity to a larger population. In contrast, asbestos in boiler rooms is more likely to only be serviced by a specialized group.
Secondary exposure is also a large risk factor for mesothelioma. This occurs when individuals with direct asbestos exposure unknowingly expose others. This can often happen to loved ones of asbestos workers when doing laundry or cleaning.
04. Asbestos Lawsuits
Asbestos Lawsuits, Settlements & Other Compensation
Individuals who develop an asbestos disease may be eligible to seek compensation. Compensation for exposure to contaminated consumer goods can help victims pay for medical costs, recover lost wages and hold asbestos companies accountable.
Compensation Following Exposure From Consumer Products
Notable lawsuits related to asbestos exposure from consumer goods include:
- In 2010, a woman filed an asbestos exposure lawsuit for her pleural mesothelioma. The plaintiff experienced secondary exposure due to her husband’s job as a hairdresser.
- Since 2018, several multimillion-dollar verdicts have been decided against Johnson & Johnson for asbestos-contaminated talc products. In February 2021, reports showed Johnson & Johnson set aside $3.9 billion to cover litigation costs, including talc-related settlements and lawsuits. As of April 2021, the company faces 25,000 lawsuits claiming contaminated baby powder caused various forms of cancer in consumers.
- In April 2021, a Los Angeles jury awarded a plaintiff $4.8 million. The plaintiff developed pleural mesothelioma after prolonged contact with asbestos-contaminated talcum powder. He used Old Spice™ Talcum Powder for 22 years. The talc was supplied by Whittaker, Clark & Daniels, the defendants in the case.
To seek compensation, asbestos victims should contact a mesothelioma lawyer. These professionals can assist individuals with choosing the best legal option for their situation. In addition, the lawyers will handle researching, filing and litigating the lawsuit.