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Rick Shapiro
Rick Shapiro
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Talc and Asbestos: Why Common Talcum Powder May Exponentially Increase the Risk for Cancer

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More than 2,500 lawsuits across the United States aim to answer the question of whether a case of ovarian cancer, mesothelioma or other form of genitourinary cancer can be linked to the plaintiff’s lifelong use of a product like Johnson & Johnson’s talc-containing Baby Powder or Shower to Shower talc product. J&J is the defendant in most of the dangerous product and wrongful death cases, but other health and beauty product manufacturers like Colgate-Palmolive have also been sued over their talcum powder products. Colgate-Palmolive sold Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder until 1995. Several lawsuits assert that Colgate got its talc from mines contaminated with asbestos, resulting in some users of the talc powder contracting mesothelioma, a deadly cancer whose only known cause is inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers.

talc_headerColgate, Johnson & Johnson and other companies have asserted that their talc baby powder products have been free of asbestos since the 1980s. Attorneys for persons suffering mesothelioma and other asbestos-induced cancers have asserted, however, that the companies’ talc powder products remained adulterated or contaminated by asbestos far longer. It is well known that asbestos is a carcinogen that, when inhaled, can cause numerous types of cancers, like lung cancer or mesothelioma, which attacks the lining of the lung, as well as forms of throat cancers and others.

In a talc powder ovarian cancer case being tried in St. Louis, Missouri, a whistle blower came forward providing deposition testimony about the presence of asbestos in talc powders. The whistle blower worked on chemical testing of Johnson & Johnson baby powder products in the 1970’s which revealed a high percentage of samples were contaminated with asbestos. Did J & J issue a finding on these tests or alert consumers about the risk of asbestos exposure from using their talc products? No. The testing was actually halted, presumably on direction of J & J corporate leadership and the results were never published.

Older Talc Products Did Contain Asbestos

Until the mid-1970s, talc used in health and beauty products sold in the United States often came from the same mines that supplied asbestos for fireproofing and insulation. Companies like J&J have since pledged that all their talcum powders — both standalone products like Shower to Shower and combination products like makeup and skin cleansers — come from asbestos-free sources. Attorneys in several recent dangerous product cases have asserted that asbestos remains in various talc powder products. If this is true, it means that not only is talc a potential cause of ovarian cancer, but that asbestos fibers and talc fibers may be migrating into the female genital organs through the vaginal canal when women use talc-containing baby powders as a feminine dying agent.

The withdrawal of older talc products from the market and the long shelf life of bottles of talc certainly left people at risk for unrecognized asbestos exposure into the 1990s and possibly even into the present day. Lab tests and autopsies have shown that breathing in talcum powder during everyday use left traces of asbestos in the lung tissue of talc product users who would not otherwise have regular exposure to asbestos. It appears that asbestos must have been present at the microscopic fiber level when baby powder was merely applied.

The presence of asbestos is problematic because it is the single-known cause of mesothelioma. That cancer of the lining around the lungs and gut is always fatal. In addition, it is well known medically that talc can enter a person’s body through tiny abrasions. Talcum powder tainted with asbestos could, therefore, also be linked to cases of ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and other cancers of the female urinary tract.

Jury Verdicts on Ovarian Cancer and Talcum Power

J&J has lost at least three jury trials, being ordered to pay multimillions in damages for selling a dangerous talc product that was linked to cancer without providing sufficient safety warnings of the carcinogenic effect of talc. In early March 2017, however, the company prevailed in a case brought by a woman who received a diagnosis of ovarian cancer after using J&J’s Baby Powder for 36 years.

The company argued that no connection between talc in its product and the plaintiff’s disease could be proven. Part of the defense rested on complicated statistics related to the carcinogenicity of talc and the likelihood of any such fibers entering the woman’s body.

The most recent ovarian cancer/talc baby powder trials against J&J and its mining supplier focused exclusively on talc fibers as the cause of the ovarian cancer. If adequate evidence comes to light that the talc baby powder products actually contained asbestos fibers as well, it is quite possible that women afflicted with such cancers will pursue arguments that either or both talc and asbestos caused their cancer.

A woman who believes that her own ovarian cancer or mesothelioma can be traced to talcum powder use must be prepared to counter every conceivable industry defense. Working with an experienced Virginia dangerous product attorney who understands the medicine and science relating to asbestos and talc will be highly beneficial.

EJL