Talcum Powder Lawsuits
For decades scientists have known that talc—a mineral found in talcum powder and other household products—can be contaminated with asbestos, which is a human carcinogen.
Yet companies like Johnson & Johnson (J&J) have long manufactured and sold talcum products to the public while assuring customers that the products were safe for use.
Now, the company is facing thousands of lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who used talc products and were later diagnosed with cancer. Documents revealed during the course of litigation showed that J&J was aware for over 40 years that some of its raw talc products sometimes tested positive for the presence of asbestos. The company failed to provide safety warnings concerning these findings.
Chaffin Luhana is investigating cases in which patients used talcum products and then were diagnosed with cancer.
J&J Recalls 33,000 Bottles of Baby Powder Due to Asbestos Concerns
J&J has maintained all this time that its talcum products are safe and that plaintiffs’ attorneys are distorting historical documents. Yet on October 18, 2019, the company voluntarily recalled over 30,000 bottles of baby powder after an FDA test revealed the presence of sub-trace levels of asbestos in samples from a single bottle purchased from an online retailer.
J&J initiated its own investigation into the matter. It later reported that new testing of a batch of recalled baby powder showed no traces of asbestos. Two outside firms were reportedly tasked with the testing.
The FDA responded that it stood by its testing.
Talc Linked with Ovarian Cancer
In 1894, J&J introduced baby powder made of crushed talc to the market. At that time, the label stated that the product was to be used for “toilet and nursery.”
The powder quickly became popular, with parents using it to prevent diaper rash and as a feminine hygiene product. Starting in the 1970s, however, scientists began publishing studies on the association between talc and ovarian cancers.
In 1971, researchers examined tissue from patients with ovarian and cervical tumors and found in both conditions that talc particles were deeply embedded within the tumor tissue. Even then, the scientists suspected asbestos contamination: “The close association of talc to the asbestos group of minerals is of interest,” the authors wrote.
In 1973, as noted above, the FDA required that talcum powders be asbestos-free. In the 1980s, reports began to show that infants who inhaled baby powder could suffer from serious illnesses or even death. In a 1990 study, researchers noted that “overzealous” application of baby powder could produce “severe pulmonary [lung] complications” if infants breathed the powder in.
At about the same time, studies started showing that regular application of talcum powder to the female genital area could increase the likelihood of developing ovarian cancer. In a 1992 study of 235 women with ovarian cancer compared with 239 controls, researchers found that those who had regularly applied talcum powder to undergarments, sanitary napkins, or diaphragms were at a higher risk of ovarian cancer than those who hadn’t used talcum powder this way.
In 2003, a meta-analysis of 16 studies involving nearly 12,000 subjects suggested a 33 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer with perineal talc use. In a 2008 study involving over 2,000 women, researchers again found that regular use of talc was associated with increased ovarian cancer risk.
Other studies would come to the same conclusion, while some produced mixed results. Talc is not a known carcinogen, but the particles may rise through the uterus and up into the fallopian tubes and ovaries, where they can cause damage. Scientists theorized that in the cases of ovarian cancer, talc powders might have caused an inflammatory response inside bodily tissues, thereby increasing the risk of cancer.
Talc may also be contaminated with asbestos, which provides an even clearer potential link to cancer. In a recent 2019 study, scientists followed 33 patients and found that asbestos-tainted talcum powder could cause mesothelioma—one of the main cancers associated with asbestos. All individuals were exposed to the powder outside of the workplace.
Because of all these studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) now classifies talc-based body powders as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
J&J Knew for Decades that Its Talcum Powder Could Contain Asbestos
In December 2018, Reuters released the results of an investigation in which they discovered that J&J’s baby powder was sometimes tainted with asbestos, even though the company failed to share that information with regulators and the public.
J&J has always maintained that its talcum powder products were asbestos-free, but during the course of litigation, internal reports, company memos, and other confidential documents showed that at least from 1971 to the early 2000s, the company knew that its raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.
As far back as 1957, the company was in possession of reports from a consulting lab detailing contamination in talc from an Italian supplier. Yet in the 1970s, while the FDA was considering new regulations on asbestos in talc products, J&J assured the regulator that no asbestos had been detected in any sample of its products between December 1972 and October 1973. Executives failed to tell the FDA that at least three tests had been positive for asbestos, with one test showing levels in talc that were “rather high.”
Investigators also found that company employees, including executives, mine managers, scientists, and lawyers were concerned about the contamination and how to address it. The documents also revealed the company’s efforts to influence U.S. regulators when it came to limiting the amount of allowed asbestos in cosmetic talc products.
Meanwhile, many people who developed cancer after using talcum powder products have filed talcum powder lawsuits against J&J seeking to recover damages.
Types of Injuries Associated with Talcum Powder
High exposure to talc over a period of years may increase the risk of the following injuries:
- mesothelioma (cancer in the lining of the lungs)
- lung cancer
- asbestosis (progressive non-cancer disease of the lungs)
- larynx (voice box) cancer
- ovarian cancer
- cervical cancer
- endometrial cancer
- other types of cancer
J&J Faces Thousands of Talcum Powder Lawsuits
Over the past several years, the number of talcum powder lawsuits filed has steadily increased. As of October 2019, more than 14,000 lawsuits were pending against J&J and other manufacturers of talcum powder. The plaintiffs claim to have used these products and then suffered from cancer.
The first talcum powder lawsuit to go to trial resulted in a mixed verdict in federal court in South Dakota in 2013. The jury found J&J to be negligent but awarded no damages to the plaintiff.
In February 2016, a Missouri jury determined that J&J was liable for the plaintiff’s death and awarded the plaintiff $72 million in damages. She had allegedly used talcum powder for over 35 years as a personal hygiene product before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. (J&J later got this and three other verdicts overturned due to a technicality about where the lawsuits had been filed.)
In October 2016, all federally filed talcum powder lawsuits were centralized in the District of New Jersey for pre-trial proceedings. Meanwhile, other juries agreed with plaintiffs that J&J should be held liable for plaintiffs’ claims.
In October 2016, a California jury awarded a plaintiff $18 million in damages—he claimed to have developed mesothelioma after being exposed to talcum powder at his father’s barbershop. In April 2018, a New Jersey awarded a plaintiff $117 million—he claimed to have developed mesothelioma after using J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for years.
In September 2018, J&J’s supplier, Imerys, agreed to settle with a California plaintiff who claimed to have developed mesothelioma after years of using J&J’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products. In December 2018, a $4.7 billion verdict awarded to 22 plaintiffs who claimed they’d suffered cancer-related to J&J’s baby powder products was upheld in St. Louis.
In May 2019, a New York jury ordered J&J to pay $325 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a talc baby powder case. The plaintiff blamed her mesothelioma on her use of talcum powder products. J&J stated it would appeal.
In October 2019, a New Jersey jury sided with four plaintiffs who claimed to have developed cancer from talcum powder products. J&J was ordered to pay $37.2 in damages. The jury was to consider punitive damages at a later date. This verdict marked more than half a dozen trial losses for the company, but again J&J vowed to appeal.
Talc May Be Contaminated with Asbestos
Both talc and asbestos can be found in the same areas in the earth. They may naturally form alongside each other, which means that when talc is mined, it may be contaminated with some asbestos. Not all talc is affected, but some might be.
Companies have long been aware of this risk and therefore are expected to take precautions to be sure that their products are asbestos-free. Choosing mining sites carefully, for example, can help to reduce the risk that asbestos will end up in the mix. Talc mines in the U.S. currently exist in Texas, Vermont, New York, and Montana. Companies are also expected to regularly test their talc supplies to be sure that they don’t contain asbestos.
In 1973, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed new standards for talc that stated it should be thoroughly tested to be sure it was asbestos-free. That law remains in place today.
What is Talc?
Talc is a natural clay mineral made up of mainly magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. The world’s softest mineral, it’s mined from the earth or produced industrially and then used to make a wide variety of products. It appears translucent and pearly and is typically crushed into a white powder (talcum powder).
Talc is extremely versatile. It can be used as an anti-caking, anti-sticking, and dispersing agent, and is nearly insoluble in water and weak acids and alkalis. It’s added to products to absorb moisture, smooth or soften the product, or to make a product opaque.
Talc is used in the production of or can be found in:
- Baby powder
- Feminine hygiene powder
- Makeup (blushes, powder compacts, eye shadows, foundations, beauty creams)
- Ceramics (tiles, tableware)
- Putties and adhesives
- Foods (rice, chewing gum, cured meats, boiled sweets, olive oil)
- Animal feed
- Household appliances
- Rubber compounds
- Wastewater treatment
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral made up of fine, durable fibers that resist heat, fire, electricity, and many chemicals. Each fiber has microscopic “fibrils” that can be released into the air and breathed in by humans. The mineral is mined from the earth and is odorless and tasteless, so you typically can’t tell it’s there unless you test for it.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the National Toxicology Program (NTP), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) all classify asbestos as a human carcinogen. Cancers most often connected with asbestos include mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the risk of disease, though that disease may take years to develop following exposure.
Asbestos was formerly been used in a large number of everyday products, mainly in the construction industry. Some examples include:
- attic and wall insulation
- vinyl floor tiles, flooring, and adhesives
- roofing and siding shingles
- textured paint and patching compounds
- walls and floors around wood-burning stoves
- hot water and steam pipes coated or covered with asbestos material
- oil and coal furnaces with asbestos insulation
- heat-resistant fabrics
- automobile clutches and brakes
Asbestos has also been used or found in a wide range of consumer products in the past, including:
- baby powder
- crock pots
- hair dryers
- cigarette filters
- ironing board covers
After scientists discovered the link between asbestos and cancer, most manufacturers stopped using it. Small amounts are still allowed in some materials, however. Uses of asbestos are heavily regulated, but not banned in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Today, people may be exposed to asbestos when:
- asbestos-containing material is disturbed enough to release fibers
- living or working near asbestos mining facilities
- living in areas where asbestos is detected in the water or air
- working in shipbuilding or insulation industries
- being near demolition work
- engaging in building or home maintenance projects
- repairing or remodeling areas where asbestos materials may exist
- using consumer products that may be contaminated with asbestos
People can inhale asbestos fibers that are released into the air. They may also swallow the fibers when consuming contaminated foods or liquids. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) estimates that over a million American employees in construction and general industries face significant asbestos exposure on the job.
How to File a Talcum Powder Lawsuit
Manufacturers and suppliers of talc products that may be named in talcum powder lawsuits include:
- Johnson & Johnson
- Imerys Talc North America
- Whittaker, Clark & Daniels
- Vanderbilt Minerals
Lawsuits are currently taking place in the consolidated litigation in New Jersey, as well as in state courts in New Jersey and California.
If you or a loved one used talc-containing products and developed cancer, you may be eligible to file a talcum powder lawsuit to recover damages. Chaffin Luhana is now investigating these cases and invites you to call today at 888-480-1123.