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Talc is a natural mineral used for a variety of consumer and industrial products. Talc can easily be contaminated with asbestos when mined. This has led to concern over exposure to contaminated talcum powder products. Asbestos in talc has been linked to mesothelioma and other cancers.


01. Talcum Powder and Asbestos

Why Is Asbestos in Talcum Powder?

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

Talc and asbestos naturally occur near each other in the earth. When mined, raw talc may contain asbestos fibers. Talc is commonly contaminated with amphibole asbestos. Studies found exposure to the five types of asbestos in this category is more likely to lead to asbestos-related diseases.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the questions surrounding asbestos-contaminated talc have been raised since the 1970s.

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 U.S. Researchers found asbestos in 10 samples. Asbestos content in the samples ranged from 2 to 20%. They found the highest concentration of asbestos in a ZBT product.

In 1973, the FDA developed new standards stating talc should be tested to ensure it is asbestos-free talc. The law remains in place today. However, the FDA does not currently require testing of talc cosmetics for asbestos before they are added to store shelves. Once a product is on the market, the FDA monitors for safety.

Today, talc products continue to test positive for asbestos fibers. Independent testing completed by The Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2020 found 15% of the talc cosmetics sampled contained asbestos fibers. As a result, workers and consumers continue to be at risk for asbestos exposure and related diseases.

Asbestos in Talcum Powder History At-a-Glance

  • Other Names: Talc, talc powder, cosmetic talc, baby powder, body powder
  • Years of Manufacture: 1800s – Present
  • Places Used: Personal care products, cosmetic products, consumer uses, industrial uses
  • Asbestos Use Banned: No
  • Noteworthy Brands & Distributors: Johnson & Johnson; Colgate-Palmolive; Whittaker, Clark and Daniels

Dangers of Asbestos in Talcum Powder

Studies first emerged in the 1970s linking contaminated talc to serious health risks, such as cancer. 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.

For many years, there was debate over the possible cancer connection. More studies and agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), have confirmed contaminated talc is a carcinogen.

2020 Study Links Talc to 75 Mesothelioma Cases

According to a study released in February 2020, researchers found asbestos-contaminated talc was the cause of 75 cases of mesothelioma. Four different types of mesothelioma were diagnosed among the patients.

When consumers use these asbestos-containing products, they risk exposure to friable asbestos fibers. The powder form of the contaminated talcum powder may increase the risk of inhaling or ingesting asbestos. Many concerned consumers have also 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 lead to several diseases, including:

As a result, thousands of consumers have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers of these products. More than 9,000 of these cases are due to consumers developing ovarian cancer after using these products. Recently, more cases are emerging tying asbestos talcum powder to mesothelioma and lung cancer. A number of these asbestos talcum powder lawsuits have led to large verdicts for the claimants.

02. List of Asbestos Talc Products

Talc Products Known to Contain Asbestos

Exposure to asbestos-contaminated talc most notably occurs through the use of contaminated talcum powder products, such as 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. Below is a list of notable asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products.

  • 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
  • Mennen Shave Talc
  • Old Spice Talcum Powder
  • Rosemary Talc
  • Yardley Invisible Talc
  • Yardley Black Label Baby Powder
  • ZBT Baby Powder with Baby Oil

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

Companies That Produced Asbestos Talcum Powder

  • Bauer & Black
  • Cashmere Bouquet
  • Colgate-Palmolive
  • Coty
  • English Leather
  • Faberge
  • Friendship Garden
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Kings Men
  • Old Spice
  • Pinaud Clubman
  • Rosemary
  • Whittaker, Clark and Daniels
  • ZBT

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

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

According to a 2018 Reuters report, Johnson & Johnson talc sometimes tested positive for asbestos from the 1970s to the early 2000s. The company failed to notify the public.

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.

Johnson & Johnson’s cornstarch-based baby powder will remain on the market in North America. The company will continue to sell its talc-based product elsewhere across the globe.

Asbestos diseases, such as mesothelioma, have long latency periods. As a result, individuals exposed to Johnson & Johnson contaminated products in the past may still be at risk of developing a disease.

Other Uses of Asbestos-Contaminated Talc

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

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). Additionally, the mineral is often 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. Many consumers use these products for decades. No amount of asbestos exposure is safe. But long-term exposure to asbestos is often more likely to cause asbestos-related diseases.

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

In addition to consumers, miners may also experience asbestos exposure when mining talc ore. Manufacturer workers may be exposed during production of talc products. This occupational asbestos exposure may also be long-term, with exposure occurring over a decades-long career.

Potential exposure to contaminated talcum powder continues today. Consumers remain at risk through talcum powder and use of talc-containing cosmetics, such as eyeshadow.

04. Asbestos Lawsuits

Asbestos Lawsuits, Settlements & Other Compensation

Individuals diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease following exposure to asbestos-contaminated talcum powder may be eligible for compensation. In the event of a patient’s passing, family members may also file a mesothelioma claim.

An experienced asbestos lawyer can help individuals discern the best compensation option for them. If the company is still in business, such as Johnson & Johnson, a lawsuit may be a viable option. Johnson & Johnson has been named in thousands of lawsuits stemming from its talc products. These lawsuits may result in mesothelioma settlements or jury verdicts.

Compensation from these lawsuits may help cover treatment costs, lost wages or pain and suffering.

Some talc suppliers have filed for bankruptcy due to their talc-related liabilities. However, victims may still be eligible for compensation. For instance, The North American Talc Subsidiaries of Imerys, a major supplier of talc to Johnson & Johnson, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019.

The talc supplier released a plan for reorganization in May 2020. Asbestos companies sometimes begin trust funds to pay claimants when emerging from bankruptcy. The North American Talc Subsidiaries of Imerys will form an asbestos trust to compensate victims.

Lawyers can help individuals determine the best compensation option for their situation.

Compensation Following Asbestos Exposure From Talcum Powder

Many individuals have successfully filed claims against companies 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, Johnson & Johnson reached a $100 million settlement. The settlement resolved more than 1,000 claims of asbestos-contaminated baby powder causing cancer, including mesothelioma.

In 2015, Judith Winkel was awarded $13 million in California court. She filed a mesothelioma lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive. Winkel developed mesothelioma due to her regular use of Cashmere Bouquet.

Whittaker, Clark and Daniels has also faced lawsuits. The company distributed asbestos-contaminated talc to the manufacturers of Desert Flower and Clubman talcum powders. Whittaker, Clark and Daniels paid $7 million and $18 million verdicts in 2015 and 2016, respectively. At the time, the $18 million verdict was the largest award for mesothelioma caused by cosmetic talc.

In spring 2018, Johnson & Johnson faced its second asbestos talcum powder lawsuit connected to a mesothelioma diagnosis. Stephen Lanzo filed the claim. 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.

Punitive damages are awarded to a plaintiff to punish the defendant.

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, New York. 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. Courts continue to hear cases calling for stricter talc regulations to ensure product safety and protect consumers and workers.

Those concerned about asbestos-contaminated talc may choose to avoid talc-containing products as a precaution.

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