Talcum powder has been a staple in households across the United States for decades, but this seemingly harmless powder has been linked to cancer when it contains asbestos.

What Is Talcum Powder?

Talc is a clay mineral made up of hydrated magnesium silicate and oxygen mined from the rock deposits in the earth.  Manufacturers crush, dry and mill talc into a fine, soft white powder called talcum powder.  As a powder, talc easily absorbs moisture, prevents caking, and aids in keeping skin dry in order to prevent rashes. The talcum powder adds softness and shine to products, which makes it a common ingredient in cosmetics. Talc is also used as a thickening agent and lubricant, and is also an ingredient in many industrial products including paint and joint compound (mud).

Some talc, in its natural form, contains asbestos, which is a known carcinogen. Exposure to asbestos may cause mesothelioma or lung cancer. Many talc deposits are contaminated with asbestos due to their proximity to tremolite mines. Tremolite is a type of asbestos. 

Baby powder represents the cornerstone of the Johnson & Johnson baby products franchise; and they have a large investment in a talc mine. Despite this, they knew it would be very bad for business if it became known that talc contained asbestos.  Yet, an article by Drs. Hughes and Kalmer appeared in June 1966 American Journal of Diseases of Children that states:

“In conclusion, it is strongly urged that talcum powder be removed from the environment of children and the traditional association of talcum powder and babies be abandoned. It has no medicinal value; wherever placed it serves as a foreign body; and at least three deaths and an unknown morbidity have resulted from this silicate powder.”

ASBESTOS – THERE IS NO SAFE LEVEL

In 1972 the OSHA regulations were put in place in the Federal register, in the law, and asbestos was the very first substance regulated by OSHA. There was recognition that this substance, while it wouldn’t hurt the vast majority of people exposed to it, was so dangerous that we had to protect our people.

OSHA is not the only organization that recognizes the dangers of asbestos.  Organizations worldwide have quantified and agreed that THERE IS NO SAFE LEVEL OF EXPOSURE to ANY TYPE OF ASBESTOS.  These companies include:

  • NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health);

  • U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission;

  • United States Public Health Service;

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency;

  • World Health Organization;

 

  • American Thoracic Society;

  • National Cancer Institute;

 

  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry;

  • CFTA (Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrances Association, now known as the Personal Care Products Council or PCPC);
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare Center for Disease Control.

It is the position of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the American Thoracic Society, among others, that microscopic structures of amphibole and serpentine minerals that are asbestiform and meet the size definition of PCM fibers, should be counted as asbestos, regardless of the manner by which they were formed.

The U.S. Department of Commerce National Technical Reports Library published an Industrial Hygiene Study of the Gouverneur Talc Company, Number One Mine and Mill in Balmat, New York. The report was prepared by John M. Dement and Ralph D. Zumwalde, and published on June 8, 1977. The survey was conducted November 3-7, 1975.  The final report states that, “Analysis of the impinger samples revealed excessive exposure to asbestos at almost every mine and mill operation. The authors conclude that excessive exposures to airborne fibers exist in both mine and mill.”  Jefferson County, which is just south of the area where the mines were located and where many of the miners lived, has continually had one of the highest mortality rates for mesothelioma in the United States over the past fifty years.  Males in this community had the sixth highest mesothelioma mortality rate in the nation during a period in time when the Balmat mines were extremely active (1968-1981). The mesothelioma mortality rate for women during this time period was the second highest in the nation. Since the early 1980’s, the mesothelioma rate has increased to the point that it is now five to ten times the background rate.

Talcum Powder and Mesothelioma:  

Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer caused exclusively by asbestos exposure, and strikes an average of 3,200 U.S. residents per year, most dying within a couple of years of diagnosis. Most victims have had identifiable workplace exposures, but others appear to have had little or no contact with asbestos–apart from alleged exposure through years of using talc-based powders and cosmetics. 

Cosmetic Talc Products (partial list, not limited to the following):

  • Angel of Mine Baby Powder
  • Assured Shower & Bath Absorbent Body Powder
  • Bauer and Black Baby Talc
  • Cashmere Bouquet Body Talc
  • Clubman Talcum Powder
  • Coco Chanel After Bath Powder
  • Coty Airspun Face Powder
  • CVS Brand Baby Powder
  • Desert Flower Dusting Powder
  • English Leather After Shave Talc
  • Faberge Brut Talc
  • Face Powders, including but not limited to, pressed powders, loose mineral powders, matte pressed powders, powder bronzers, shimmery face powders
  • Family Dollar Mild Baby Powder
  • Friendship Garden talcum powder
  • Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder®
  • Mennen Shave Talc
  • NARS Blush
  • N.Y.C. New York Color Cheek Glow Powder Blush
  • Old Spice Talcum Powder
  • Rosemary Talc
  • Shower to Shower Body Powder
  • Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ Shower to Shower®
  • Yardley Invisible Talc
  • Yardley Black Label Baby Powder
  • ZBT Baby Powder with Baby Oil

Industrial Uses of Talc:

  • Paint – spray paint, high heat paint, semi-gloss paints, waterproofing paint, latex paint – Paints: an anti-corrosive, to produce matting and to prevent cracking;
  • Joint Compounds, wood putty;
  • Export, refractories, insecticides and miscellaneous uses;
  • Ceramics (including automotive catalytic converters) and clays, catalysts and tiles: as a flux and to control thermal expansion – particularly in catalysts and particulate filters;
  • Paper and papermaking: to improve paper smoothness, water retention in certain papers, and printability and runnability for coated papers;
  • Rubber;
  • Roofing and Asphalt shingles: for backsurfacing and to prevent sticking in storage;
  • Additives in foods: an anti-sticking agent;
  • Animal feed: to prevent caking and improve the pressability of pellets;
  • Body powder, makeup and soaps: inert, soft and fragrance-retentive;
  • Cables: to improve electrical insulation and flame retardancy;
  • Fertilizers: to prevent caking and lengthen storage periods;
  • Glazes: to improve thermal expansion and fusion;
  • Olive oil processing: to improve oil extraction;
  • Paper and papermaking: to improve paper smoothness, water retention in certain papers, and printability and runnability for coated papers;
  • Pesticides: a carrier and dilutant;
  • Pharmaceuticals: as an excipient or lubricant;
  • Plastics, particularly automotive parts: to increase dimensional stability and stiffness;
  • Rubber hoses, membranes, sealings, stoppers and tires: to improve tear and tensile properties, and the flow in molding;
  • Sanitaryware: to improve gloss and whiteness;
  • Tableware: to enable shorter firing cycles;
  • Wires: to improve electrical insulation and flame retardancy.

Many regulatory agencies, including The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the world Health Organization (WHO), classifies asbestos-containing talc as “carcinogenic to humans.” The CTFA (Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrances Association, now known as the Personal Care Products Council [PCPC]) issued voluntary guidelines in 1976, warning all talc used in cosmetic products in the U.S. should be free from detectable amounts of asbestos.

Asbestos-contaminated talc is hazardous and exposure to it can be attributed to an industrial or cosmetic source.

Manufacturers of Talc and Talcum Powder

There are several manufacturers of Talcum powder.  They include:

  • Johnson & Johnson (most well-known) which is now owned by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc., now known as Bausch Health Companies, Inc.;
  • Whittaker Clark & Daniels;
  • Colgate-Palmolive Company;
  • Imerys Talc Supplier;
  • Mineral Technologies, Inc.;
  • IMI Fabi SpA;
  • Golcha Group;
  • Angel of Mine Baby Powder;
  • Anti Monkey Butt Powder;
  • Assured Shower & Bath Absorbent Body Powder;
  • Store brands including CVS Brand Baby Powder, Family Dollar Mild Baby Powder, and Rite Aid Baby Powder.

Talcum Powder Lawsuits:   

Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of lawsuits contending that the use of its talc powders for feminine hygiene caused ovarian cancer.  In a 2018 Missouri case, a jury found that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products gave 22 women cancer, resulting in a record-setting $2.1 billion verdict.

In December 2019, Johnson & Johnson agreed to settle a mesothelioma case, where the expert had reported finding traces of asbestos in Johnson & Johnson Products.   Johnson & Johnson knew their products contained asbestos.  In fact, in 2019, Johnson & Johnson recalled 33,000 bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found asbestos in a sample it tested.  In May 2020, the company announced it would stop selling talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada.  The decision came after juries awarded billions of dollars to people who said talcum powder products gave them ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.

Going forward, the judicial system will likely put emphasis on mesothelioma and cosmetic talc cases as the first to go to trial once the trial courts slowly resume, as plaintiffs stricken with mesothelioma seek to get cases in front of a jury before their health deteriorates further.

On Monday, April 19, 2021, A California jury handed down a $4.8 million verdict against talc supplier Whittaker Clark & Daniels after connecting the company to a 78-year-old man’s mesothelioma diagnosis. Mr. Willie McNeal Jr., a Vietnam War veteran represented by the Simon Greenstone Panatier law firm, suffers from pleural mesothelioma, convinced a jury to link his diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma to his daily use of Old Spice Talcum Powder for 22 years. According to the trial testimony, Whittaker Clark & Daniels’ North Carolina talc mine is known to have asbestos contamination. The verdict included $3 million in punitive damages. 

The trial of Linda Zimmerman, represented by Attorney Leah Kagen at the Simon Greenstone Panatier law firm, opened in April 2021 in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Zimmerman’s lawsuit was filed against numerous defendants who manufactured asbestos-laden products after she was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2018.  The retired California teacher used Johnson’s baby powder from 1954 to 2018, a brand called Jean Naté from 1956 to 1992, Avon Unforgettable from 1964 to the 1980s, and Chanel No. 5 powder from 1964 to 2009. The defendant in the case is Whittaker Clark & Daniels, the talc supplier to beauty products companies Avon, Revlon and Chanel.

Whittaker has been named in other talc lawsuits, including a 2016 case in Los Angeles Superior Court that resulted in an $18 million jury verdict. That suit was brought by Philip Depoian and his wife, represented by the Simon Greenstone Panatier firm, who accused the company of being partly responsible for his May 2015 diagnosis for mesothelioma. Depoian retired in 2007, and claimed he was exposed to asbestos-containing talc products because of his father’s job at a barbershop and through his use of various talc-based men’s products. Whittaker was also named as a defendant in a recently-filed case in New York State court that also targeted Revlon, with a husband and wife alleging that she developed mesothelioma from asbestos in its talc products and that she was exposed to asbestos through her father’s employment with the cosmetics company. Another cosmetic talc trial involving Johnson & Johnson is set to begin later in April 2021 in Alameda County, with another case potentially going to trial later in the summer of 2021 in St. Louis, Missouri.

The attorneys at Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing talc used in industrial products and in cosmetic products. If you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma or lung cancer as a result of exposure to talcum powder, we can help you obtain financial compensation for your injury. We urge you to contact us today regarding your legal rights.