Asbestos in Talcum Powder

Expert Fact Checked

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Jennifer Lucarelli Lawyer and Legal Advisor

Talc is a natural mineral used for a variety of consumer and industrial products. When mined, asbestos can easily contaminate talc. This has led to asbestos exposure from contaminated talcum powder products. Asbestos in talc has been linked to mesothelioma and other cancers.

01. Talcum Powder and Asbestos

Is There Asbestos in Talcum Powder?

Talc powder products have been on the market since the 1800s. But in recent years, the safety of talcum powder has been called into question. Pure talc on its own is generally considered safe, but asbestos-contaminated talc poses public health concerns.

Talc and asbestos naturally occur near each other in the earth. Asbestos is a known carcinogen. When mined, raw talc may contain asbestos fibers. Talc is commonly contaminated with amphibole asbestos, which is a category that includes five types of asbestos. Studies show exposure to these types of asbestos may be more likely to lead to asbestos-related diseases.

How Much Asbestos Has Been Found in Talcum Powder Products?

In 1976, researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital analyzed 19 samples of talcum powder products sold in the United States. Researchers found asbestos in 10 samples, which was more than 50%. Asbestos content in the samples ranged from 2% to 20%. They found the highest concentration of asbestos in a ZBT product.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says questions about the safety of asbestos-contaminated talc have existed since the 1970s.

In 1973, the FDA developed standards requiring testing to ensure talc is asbestos-free. Talc companies opposed these standards, and they were not adopted. This means there is no FDA-required asbestos testing of talc cosmetics. Instead, the talc industry has handled testing on a voluntary basis. Once a product is on the market, the FDA monitors it for general safety. If the FDA has concerns, it can choose to test and remove unsafe products.

Today, talc products continue to test positive for asbestos fibers. In 2020, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) completed independent testing of talc cosmetics. The results showed 15% of the talc cosmetics sampled contained asbestos fibers. This puts workers and consumers at risk for asbestos exposure and related diseases.

Asbestos in Talcum Powder History at a Glance

  • Other Names: Baby powder, body powder, cosmetic talc, talc, talc powder
  • Years of Manufacture: 1800s – Present
  • Places Used: Consumer uses, cosmetic products, industrial uses, personal care products
  • Asbestos Use Banned: No
  • Noteworthy Brands: Avon, Claire’s Stores Inc., Imerys, Johnson & Johnson (J&J)

Dangers of Asbestos in Talcum Powder

In the 1970s, studies began linking contaminated talc to serious health risks like cancer. Doctors noted many instances of ovarian cancer that revealed talc particles within tumors. They reasoned that talc created an increased risk for ovarian and other types of cancer.

For many years, there was debate over the possible cancer connection. Some studies have found a link between talc use and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies asbestos-contaminated talc as a carcinogen.

Researchers Say Asbestos-Tainted Talc Caused 100+ Cases of Mesothelioma

Across several studies, researchers carefully reviewed the personal histories of mesothelioma patients. In more than 100 cases, cosmetic talc was the only known source of asbestos exposure. The majority of these cases occurred in female patients and were pleural or peritoneal mesotheliomas.

Patients in these studies reported using cosmetic talc in many different ways. Some used the powder in their groin areas for personal hygiene. Others applied talc to children or patients in their care. Hairdressers and barbers used talcum powder while cutting hair.

According to experts, this data shows asbestos-contaminated talc causes mesothelioma, including peritoneal mesothelioma.

When consumers use these asbestos-containing products, they risk exposure to friable asbestos fibers. Asbestos-contaminated talcum powder use creates a dust cloud, which may increase the risk of inhaling or ingesting asbestos.

Many concerned consumers have claimed they relied on these talc products for decades. This may indicate long-term exposure to asbestos-contaminated talc products.

Once in the body, the asbestos fibers can cause several diseases over time, including:

As a result, thousands of consumers have filed lawsuits against manufacturers of these products, like J&J. More than 16,500 of these cases result from consumers developing ovarian cancer after using these products. These asbestos talcum powder lawsuits can lead to large verdicts for the victims.

02. List of Asbestos Talc Products

Talc Products Known to Contain Asbestos

Exposure to asbestos-contaminated talc most notably occurs from using products like talc-based baby powders. However, contaminated talc may also be used in cosmetics and for industrial purposes. Examples of industrial uses include ceramics and plastics.

Notable asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products include:

  • Avon Night Magic Talcum Powder
  • Avon Skin So Soft Satin Talc Powder
  • Bauer & Black© Baby Talc
  • Cashmere Bouquet Body Talc
  • Clubman® Talcum Powder
  • Coty Airspun Face Powder
  • Desert Flower Dusting Powder
  • English Leather® After Shave Talc
  • Faberge Brut Talc
  • Friendship Garden Talcum Powder
  • Johnson & Johnson® Baby Powder
  • Mennen Shave Talc
  • Old Spice© Talcum Powder
  • Rosemary Talc
  • Yardley© Black Label Baby Powder
  • Yardley© Invisible Talc
  • ZBT Baby Powder with Olive Oil

Many companies were involved in developing and producing the above products. These companies may have exposed workers and consumers to asbestos-contaminated talc products.

Companies That Produced and Supplied Asbestos Talcum Powder

  • Avon
  • Bauer & Black©
  • Cashmere Bouquet
  • Colgate-Palmolive
  • Coty
  • English Leather®
  • Faberge
  • Friendship Garden
  • Imerys
  • J&J®
  • Kings Men
  • Old Spice©
  • Pinaud Clubman®
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Rosemary
  • Vanderbilt Minerals
  • Whittaker, Clark & Daniels
  • ZBT

Johnson & Johnson Ending Sale of Talc-Based Baby Powder

J&J has been a manufacturer of talc products for decades. In May 2020, the company announced it would end the sale of talc-based baby powder in North America. For years, J&J has faced lawsuits related to the safety of this product. Many plaintiffs cite trace amounts of asbestos in the talcum powder as the cause of their cancer. Despite these claims, the company has maintained that its talcum powder products are safe.

A 2018 Reuters report revealed some J&J talc had tested positive for asbestos from the 1970s to the early 2000s. The company failed to notify the public.

Some stakeholders feel J&J’s decision to stop selling its product in North America is an admission of guilt. J&J claims this change is the result of a decline in demand for talc-based baby powder. The company says it will continue to defend the product.

J&J’s cornstarch-based baby powder will remain on the market in North America. Despite calls for a global ban, the company initially decided to continue to sell its talc-based product elsewhere across the globe. In August 2022, the company announced it would switch to using cornstarch for all of its baby powder products sold globally in 2023.

Asbestos diseases, such as mesothelioma, have long latency periods. As a result, individuals exposed to J&J’s contaminated products in the past may still be at risk of developing diseases for years to come.

Other Uses of Asbestos-Contaminated Talc

Many asbestos-related talc lawsuits result from the use of talcum powders. However, asbestos talc may also be found in makeup and industrial environments.

Asbestos Talc in Makeup

Talc is often used in powdered makeup, such as eyeshadow and blush. However, it is also used in items such as lipstick and mascara. Asbestos fibers have been found in makeup targeted at adults and children.

Asbestos Talc in Industrial Uses

Talc may be used as a filler, coating and pigment in a variety of industrial uses. Talc may be used for ceramics, including pottery and household ceramics (such as sinks). The mineral is also used in paint, crayons, paper, plastics, roofing and rubber.

03. Talcum Powder & Asbestos Exposure

Who Is at Risk of Asbestos Exposure From Talcum Powder?

Consumers who use talcum powder may unknowingly experience asbestos exposure. Consumers used these products for decades, and many of the products were contaminated. No amount of asbestos exposure is safe. But long-term exposure to asbestos is often more likely to cause asbestos-related diseases.

Besides directly using talc products, secondary exposure may occur among family members. For example, a person may use asbestos-contaminated talcum powder each morning after showering. The next family member in the bathroom may then inhale or ingest asbestos fibers left in the air.

Workers also face exposure risks. For example, miners may experience asbestos exposure when mining talc ore. Manufacturing workers may also be exposed during the production of talc products. Occupational asbestos exposure may be long term, with exposure occurring over a decades-long career.

Potential exposure to contaminated talcum powder continues today. Consumers remain at risk by using talcum powder and talc-containing cosmetics, like eyeshadow.

Occupations at Risk of Exposure From Asbestos Talcum Powder

04. Asbestos Lawsuits

Asbestos Lawsuits, Settlements & Other Compensation

Individuals may be eligible for compensation if they are diagnosed with mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos-contaminated talcum powder. In some cases, family members may also file a mesothelioma claim.

An experienced asbestos lawyer can help a victim choose the right compensation option. If the company is still in business, such as J&J, a lawsuit may be a good option. Thousands of victims have filed lawsuits against J&J for its contaminated talc products. These lawsuits may result in mesothelioma settlements or jury verdicts.

Financial compensation may help cover treatment costs, lost wages or pain and suffering.

Some talc suppliers have filed for bankruptcy because of their talc-related liabilities. Victims may still be eligible for compensation from bankrupt companies’ trust funds. For instance, the North American Talc Subsidiaries of Imerys filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019. The company was a major supplier of talc to J&J and Avon.

Imerys released a plan for reorganization in May 2020. Asbestos companies sometimes create trust funds to pay claimants when emerging from bankruptcy. Imerys is in the process of forming an asbestos trust fund to compensate victims.

Lawyers can help people determine the best compensation options for their situation.

Compensation Following Asbestos Exposure From Talcum Powder

Many individuals have successfully filed lawsuits and claims against companies for producing asbestos-contaminated talcum powder.

Johnson & Johnson Reaches a Settlement for More Than 1,000 Cancer Claims

Talc-related mesothelioma cases continue to emerge. In October 2020, J&J reached a $100 million settlement. The settlement resolved more than 1,000 claims of asbestos-contaminated baby powder causing cancer, including mesothelioma.

  • In 2024, an Illinois jury awarded a woman’s family $45 million. The woman developed mesothelioma after years of using talcum powder. The jury concluded Johnson & Johnson and its two subsidiaries were liable for the exposure.
  • In 2022, a California jury ordered Avon to pay a mesothelioma patient more than $50 million. The lawsuit claimed the victim experienced asbestos exposure through Avon’s talc-based cosmetic products. She had used the products for decades. The jury also found that Avon knew about these risks but did not warn consumers.
  • In 2015 and 2016, talc distributor Whittaker, Clark & Daniels paid verdicts of $7 million and $18 million. At the time, $18 million was the largest award for mesothelioma caused by cosmetic talc.
  • In 2015, a California court awarded $13 million to a mesothelioma patient. She had filed a mesothelioma lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive. The lawsuit stated she developed mesothelioma from her regular use of Cashmere Bouquet.

Despite these verdicts and other ongoing lawsuits, these talc powder manufacturers stand by the safety of their products. Courts continue to hear cases calling for stricter talc regulations. Many people hope new regulations will ensure product safety and protect consumers and workers.

People concerned about asbestos contamination may choose to avoid talc products as a precaution.

05. Common Questions

Common Questions About Asbestos in Talcum Powder

Does talcum powder have asbestos in it?

Some talcum powder may have asbestos contamination. Many consumer products, like baby powder and cosmetics, are made with talcum powder. Lab testing can determine if a talcum powder product has asbestos contamination. Some products, like talc-based cosmetics, do not have testing requirements.

How did asbestos get in talcum powder?

Asbestos and talc are minerals that naturally occur near each other. The two minerals’ fibers can mix during talc mining. As a result, asbestos may be found in some talcum powder products.

Is talcum powder safe?

Agencies continue to study the safety of pure talcum powder, with several concluding it is not carcinogenic. But asbestos-contaminated talcum powder can cause cancer. Testing a talc product can help determine if there is asbestos contamination. But many talc-based products do not require tests before being sold. If talcum powder has not been tested, its safety may be unclear.