Last month, a California jury awarded $29 million to a woman who alleged that asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products caused her mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly form of lung cancer.
Mounting proof of tainted talc
Meanwhile, mounting proof is coming to light, showing that J&J knew for decades that its talcum baby powder and other talc-based products were contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos but concealed the risks from regulators and the public.
In a recent exposé, Reuters journalists combed through thousands of pages of documents and concluded that J&J executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors and lawyers knew since 1971, or even earlier, that the raw talc used in the company’s products had tested positive for of asbestos. Despite this, the company never informed regulators or the public.
Contamination during mining
Talc is a mineral containing magnesium, silicon and oxygen. Because it absorbs moisture and prevents friction, it is used in baby powder, hygiene products and cosmetics. However, talc and asbestos are often found near each other in the earth and studies have shown that cross-contamination can occur during mining.
J&J and other talcum powder manufacturers have claimed that samples of their products were repeatedly tested and found to be free of asbestos. However, expert evidence presented at a series of trials against the manufacturers shows that the scales used for those tests were not calibrated correctly, rendering them not sensitive enough to measure the levels of asbestos.
Asbestos and the mesothelioma epidemic
Mountains of medical research links asbestos to often-fatal diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Asbestos is naturally occurring fibrous mineral, widely used throughout much of the 20th Century as an insulator and fire retardant. Manufacturers used asbestos in floor titles, roofing shingles, automobile parts, caulk and joint compound.
However, in the ‘70s, people grew increasingly concerned about the health effects of exposure to asbestos. It was discovered that the material becomes harmful when it is disturbed, releasing tiny fibers into the air.
The most common way asbestos enters the body is through inhalation of the fibers. When inhaled, these fibers can become lodged in the lungs or other tissue. However, harmful effects can also occur from ingestion or skin contact.
Asbestos-related diseases are an epidemic in the United States with recent reports showing that 45,000 people had died from mesothelioma from 1999 through 2015. Particularly hard-hit have been construction workers, shipbuilders, auto mechanics, tradespeople and the military. But now, consumers are who used talcum baby powder and other products containing talc are joining the ranks of those afflicted by mesothelioma.
Education and Action
The latest news about asbestos in talc-based products underlines the need to educate yourself and act to ensure you are healthy and protected. You should:
- Research which products you are using that contain talc, including hygiene products, cosmetics and makeup.
- Learn the possible symptoms of illnesses related to asbestos exposure such as shortness of breath, extreme weight loss and fatigue, which could be signs of mesothelioma.
- Speak to your representatives in Congress and let them know that any easing of regulations on asbestos use must be stopped.
- Support laws allowing lawsuits and punitive damages to hold accountable those who have profited while turning a blind eye to asbestos contamination.
Finally, if you think you’ve suffered from any health issues related to asbestos exposure and would like help with a filing a claim, contact our Firm today.