July 27, 2018

How did talcum powder become contaminated with asbestos? What you need to know

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You may have recently heard news hitting the headlines regarding asbestos-contaminated talc.

Johnson and Johnson are currently battling some 9,000 cases involving its signature ‘Baby Powder’ and ‘Shower to Shower’ products. Earlier this month a jury in the state of Missouri awarded the pharmaceutical company to pay a total of $4.69 billion to 22 women who have suffered ovarian cancer as a result of asbestos-contaminated talcum powder. Rather unsurprisingly, Johnson and Johnson plans to appeal the decision.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs alleged that the company had known its talc was contaminated with asbestos since at least the 1970s but had failed to warn consumers of the risks. If this is proved to be the case this is a real cause for concern.

How was the talc contaminated?

Talc deposits are often found near sources of tremolite, a form of amphibole asbestos and as such talc can frequently be contaminated with tremolite asbestos fibres. In the past, this had gone undetected as tremolite had never been mined or used commercially. However, today talc undergoes inspection for the presence of tremolite fibres.

If these fibres remain in the talc and are regularly inhaled and applied, it can lead to the development of various asbestos-related cancers.

Internal Johnson and Johnson documents shown to the jury in the case of Stephen Lanzo, who claimed to have developed mesothelioma following use of the baby powder from 1972, allegedly showed that Johnson and Johnson was aware that the talc used in its baby powder was contaminated by asbestos during the mining process.

What now?

The emergence of this litigation in the US will undoubtedly cause concern worldwide.

I am sure the battle against Johnson and Johnson will only grow and they will rightly have a lot to answer for in order to explain why such a dangerous material was allowed to contaminate two of their most popular products for so long. This has inevitably put thousands, if not millions of unknowing, innocent people at risk from such horrific illnesses.

In the meantime can we be sure that all talc products are safe to use? Will there be further testing of such products going forward? I think there will be a lot more questions raised in the on-going litigation.

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