The softest mineral in the earth is talc. It is commonly used in industrial and consumer products. The most common consumer product is talcum powder. Talcum powder that is finely crushed has long been valued for its outstanding ability to absorb moisture and to offer lubrication. People often use talcum powder products to perfume, dry and protect their skin. This has gone on for 100 years.
On the industrial side, talcum powder is used to produce ceramics, paper, roofing, paper, rubber and flooring. But in the modern era, there have been controversies erupting over the safety of talc.
There is a furious debate ongoing around the country over whether talc is associated with various health problems. Research has shown that breathing in talc dust is unhealthy, but there is no strong connection to serious cancer such as mesothelioma.
But there is no question that talcum powder that is contaminated with asbestos fibers can lead to cancer, including mesothelioma. The controversy now is about which companies are liable if people develop cancers related to asbestos exposure, such as mesothelioma. In the recent past, there have been asbestos talc lawsuits that have netted millions of dollars in verdicts and lawsuit settlements.
Major Verdict Could Bring More Mesothelioma Lawsuits
In 2018, there was a court case called Lanzo v. J&J Consumer Inc. where the jury awarded $117 million to Stephen Lanzo for his mesothelioma. (prnewswire.com).The lead attorney on the case said that the victory was won due to confidential J&J documents that proved it knew since the 1960s that the company’s baby powder had asbestos in it and this could cause the company to face huge liability in the coming decades.
The Connection Between Talc and Mesothelioma
The most current scientific research shows that pure talc is not dangerous in terms of causing mesothelioma. But talc that is laced with asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, a terrible cancer of the lung linings that is painful and nearly always fatal.
The problem with talc is that it is present in the earth intermixed with several types of asbestos. The general term ‘asbestos’ actually refers to several minerals. These are referred to as asbestiform and are various minerals that have a crystal like structure that are very much like asbestos and share many properties with asbestos. Some examples of common asbestiform minerals are erionite, richterite, winchite and taconite.
Talc and Asbestos Often Form in Close Proximity
Talc and asbestos form naturally near each other. Of course, not every deposit of talc is laced with asbestos. The ones that are often contaminated tend to feature anthophyllite or tremolite. Both of these are forms of amphibole asbestos, not chrysotile, which is a type of asbestos referred to as serpentine.
As with talc, vermiculite forms with asbestos and asbestiform minerals. The most infamous vermiculite mine is located in Libby MT and was heavily contaminated with tremolite asbestos, as well as richterite and winchite.
Whether a talc product has asbestos in it or not depends upon where it was sourced geologically. If the deposit of talc has asbestos or asbestiform minerals, the products made from that talc probably have asbestos.
Various grades of talc can have various amounts of asbestos in them. Medical-grade talc is generally 99% pure and is used in talc pleurodesis to treat the pleural effusion that is due to mesothelioma. Talc that is used for medical purposes is a very high grade and is sterilized before it is used. Talc that is used for cosmetic purposes is usually 98% talce.
Talc that is used for industrial purposes can contain other minerals depending upon where it was sourced. For example, an industrial talc product called Nytal 100 has 30% talc, 40% tremolite, 20% serpentine and 10% anthophyllite.
Talc in Cosmetics and the Mesothelioma Connection
Talc is commonly used for cosmetic purposes and has a long history of being contaminated with asbestos. The asbestos contamination usually involves several talcum powder products, such as Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. There also have been reports of asbestos contamination in children’s makeup that is sold by Justice & Claire’s, a national retailer.
Scientific analysis in the 1970s found that 19 brands of American talcum powder products were contaminated with asbestos, which can lead to mesothelioma. But that analysis did not find asbestos in Johnson & Johnson baby powder. But recently released company documents did show that J&J had previously suppressed asbestos contamination reports at one mine in the early 1970s.
As more lawsuits regarding baby powder and mesothelioma have been filed, many of the documents that J&J suppressed have come to light in the past few years. A Reuters examination of many of those documents in 2018 showed from 1971 until the early 2000s that J&J’s raw talc did sometimes test positive for asbestos. Company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers argued over the issue and how to deal with it. But they did not disclose the matter to US regulators or consumers. (cnbc.com). This has opened the company up to significant liability issues.
Talc in the Modern Era
These days, body powder products are made either of pure talc, cornstarch or assorted alternatives.
In recent times, FDA has gotten involved in the matter. The agency studied several American talcum products in 2010 to determine if there was asbestos contamination. There was not, but the report noted that the size of the sample was small. Also, FDA did tests on Johnson & Johnson powder in the 1970s and found no tract of asbestos. But it was not using highly sensitive methods of detection.
Significantly, cosmetic products even today do not have to be reviewed by FDA or be approved before they hit the market, except for color additives. But talcum powder and other cosmetics have to be appropriately labeled and need to be found safe for consumer use. FDA continues to monitor for possible safety problems with cosmetics and may take action if evidence suggests the product is harmful in any way.
Some of the talcum powder brands from the past that were found to contain asbestos are:
- Bauer & Black Baby Talc
- Cashmere Bouquet Body Talc
- Coty Airspun Face Powder
- Desert Flower Dusting Powder
- English Leather Aftershave Talc
- Fabrege Brut Talc
- Friendship Garden Talcum Powder
- Kings Men After Shave Talc
- Old Spice After Shave Talc
- Rosemary Talc
There has been enough evidence revealed over the years that Johnson & Johnson and other companies that produce talcum powder products were aware that some of their products contained small amounts of asbestos. It is well established that the inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma in some consumers.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and were a user of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder or similar products from another company, it is smart to talk to a mesothelioma attorney today. If the evidence can be established between your use of baby powder and your mesothelioma, you could be entitled to compensation.
- J&J Kept a Guiding Hand on Talc Safety Research. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/14/jj-kept-a-guiding-hand-on-talc-safety-research.html
- Jury Returns Historic $117 Million Verdict in J&J Baby Powder Asbestos Case. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/jury-returns-historic-117-million-verdict-in-johnson–johnson-baby-powder-asbestos-mesothelioma-case-300628591.html