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Talc is a natural mineral that is used for a variety of consumer and industrial products, including baby powder, cosmetic products, ceramics, plastics and more. Because talc is often naturally found near asbestos in the earth, the talc can easily become contaminated by the toxin while being mined. In recent years, this has led to much concern over exposure to contaminated talcum powder products, which have been linked to cases of mesothelioma and other cancers. 

01. Products With Asbestos

Talcum Powder and Asbestos

The safety of talcum powder has been called into question in recent years, despite talc powder products being on the market since the 1800s. Pure talc on its own is considered safe, but asbestos-contaminated talc has been a public health concern for decades.

In 1973, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed new standards that specifically stating that the mineral should be thoroughly tested to ensure it is asbestos-free talc, a law which remains in place today. In the past several years, however, reports have emerged regarding big talc manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. The company had studies of their talc mine in Vermont performed, where officials found trace amounts of two types of asbestos fibers, in the same year as the new FDA rule and beyond.

Because of this clear contamination, various occupations could be at risk of exposure, like talc miners or people in industrial settings manufacturing the various products talc can be used for. Consumers also face a high risk of asbestos exposure from contaminated talcum powder products. Talcum powder has been used frequently in baby powder products, making it easy for people to inhale some of the fine powder as it is applied. Many concerned consumers have claimed they relied on these various products for a decade or longer, which could indicate long-term exposure to asbestos for talc products that have been contaminated.

Talc Products Known to Contain Asbestos
  • Bauer and 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
  • Mennen Shave Talc
  • Old Spice Talcum Powder
  • Rosemary Talc
  • Yardley Invisible Talc
  • Yardley Black Label Baby Powder
  • ZBT Baby Powder with Baby Oil

Johnson & Johnson Ending Sale of Talc-Based Baby Powder in North America

In May 2020, Johnson & Johnson announced it would be ending the sale of talc-based baby powder in North America. For years, the company has been involved in 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 the safety of its talcum powder products.

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

Retailers will continue to sell their current stock of the talc-based baby powder. Once the backstock sells out, the talc product will no longer be sold within the continent. Johnson & Johnson’s cornstarch-based baby powder will remain on the market in North America. The talc-based product will continue to be sold elsewhere across the globe.

Asbestos-Contaminated Talc in Makeup

In addition to some of these consumer products that have confirmed asbestos contamination, new instances have been found in recent years. Consumers quickly became concerned after hearing reports of asbestos in children’s makeup brands from Justice stores and Claire’s in 2017 and 2018. Several investigations confirmed the presence of asbestos in several of their talc-containing cosmetic products like the company’s eyeshadow, which led to the makeup being pulled off of the shelves. The impact of any potential exposure, however, wouldn’t be clear for decades, as asbestos diseases have a long latency period.

02. Cancer Risk

Talcum Powder and Cancer Risk

Studies emerged years ago linking contaminated talc to serious health risks like cancer. The first connection came in the 1970s, when doctors noted many instances of ovarian cancer revealed talc particles within tumors. They reasoned the talc created an increased risk for ovarian and other types of cancer. Though for many years, there was much debate over the possible cancer connection, more studies and agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer, have confirmed contaminated talc as carcinogenic.

As a result, thousands of consumers have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers of these products. Though over 9,000 of these cases have been due to consumers developing ovarian cancer, more cases are emerging tying asbestos talcum powder to mesothelioma. Talcum powder has also been linked to lung cancer. A number of these asbestos talcum powder lawsuits have led to large verdicts for the claimants.

Talc and Asbestos News

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

In 2015, Judith Winkel was awarded $13 million in California in a mesothelioma lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive, after providing enough evidence that her regular use of Cashmere Bouquet later led to her diagnosis. Whittaker Clark and Daniels has also faced lawsuits against their Desert Flower and Clubman talcum powders, with $7 million and $18 million verdicts in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

In spring 2018, Johnson & Johnson faced its second asbestos talcum powder lawsuit connected to a mesothelioma diagnosis. The claim was brought by Stephen Lanzo. He developed mesothelioma after regularly using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder products since the 1970s.

The case marked the first guilty verdict against Johnson & Johnson for this type of mesothelioma lawsuit. Lanzo’s case resulted in a $117 million verdict, with $80 million of the verdict due to punitive damages.

In November 2020, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $120 million in damages to another mesothelioma victim. Donna Olson was diagnosed with mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder or Shower to Shower product for more than 50 years. She and her husband were awarded:

  • $15 million in compensatory damages
  • $105 million in punitive damages

The guilty verdict was upheld by the state supreme court in Manhattan, but Johnson & Johnson said they will appeal the verdict.

Despite these verdicts and other ongoing lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson and other talc powder manufacturers stand by the safety of their products.

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