Mesothelioma is a very rare cancer that impacts around twenty thousand individuals per year. It can’t be cured, but it can be successfully treated. This type of cancer typically causes a tumor in the tissues of one’s organs, stomach, lungs, and heart. Asbestos exposure is one of the leading causes of malignant mesothelioma- and asbestos can be found in talc powder.
Further, inhaled asbestos fibers can cause significant damage to an individual’s DNA, causing irritation, scarring, and other long-term health concerns. After years of exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma grows and worsens. Most individuals who get malignant mesothelioma were most likely exposed to asbestos at one point or another.
What many people don’t realize is that asbestos can be found in talc powder, which may significantly increase the likelihood that the user will get mesothelioma cancer. Numerous talc products are naturally contaminated with asbestos fibers, which may put users of talc-based products at risk for developing mesothelioma or other conditions.
Additionally, individuals who might be subjected to asbestos—like demolition and automobile workers, firefighters, drywall removers, and other blue-collar workers—are also at a higher risk of contracting this disease.
Many manufacturers of talc products have argued that talc-based products are safe and that individuals have no need to worry about the usage of their products. As such, many ongoing discussions and research studies have been had about the inherent dangers of any asbestos in talc powder.
Many researchers argue that breathing the dust from talc mines and processing facilities is unhealthy, but several studies have had a hard time distinguishing the connection between talc dust exposure and mesothelioma or other types of cancer, like ovarian cancer. However, there is no doubt about it. Exposure to asbestos can definitely cause mesothelioma, and, in fact, a link may exist between mesothelioma, talc-based products, and certain types of cancer.
Johnson & Johnson Lawsuits
With this in mind, ongoing cases have been brought against Johnson & Johnson (J&J), a leading manufacturer of beauty products, including talc-powder products, plus other companies who also produce talc products. J&J has faced more than 15,000 lawsuits over a ten-year period, and many of these lawsuits have argued that J&J failed to protect its users by hiding the facts.
Several lawsuits have claimed that J&J failed to inform the FDA—from 1972 to 1975, in at least three separate studies by three separate laboratories—that asbestos was found in their talc powder. In one case, the amount of asbestos found was in very high amounts. Past efforts to resolve the lawsuits had very mixed results, and, last year, a jury from Missouri ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay around $4.7 billion to twenty-two women and their family members who had used the J&J talc powder and developed ovarian cancer.
Johnson & Johnson denies any accusations and says their talcum/baby powder is safe and doesn’t cause mesothelioma or other cancers. The company further argues that they will continue to fight these types of lawsuits, and J&J claims that more independent tests have shown that their baby powder is free from asbestos.
Independent investigations conducted by the FDA, however, have discovered trace amounts of the material, but the company denies this.
Nevertheless, J&J has previously recalled thousands of talc powder bottles after complaints of possible asbestos exposure.
Asbestos in Talc Powder and FDA Pressure
The FDA is now under growing pressure to ensure asbestos does not exist in talc powders and cosmetics. This year’s talc-based cosmetics testing by the agency followed jury verdicts totaling over $5 billion assessed against J&J in cancer-related lawsuits.
Also a December 14 Reuters report showed that J&J knew their talcum-based powders occasionally tested positively for asbestos, from the 1970s to early 2000, and yet they did not protect the public from harm or inform the FDA of their findings.
Reuters further claims that the US FDA has left companies, like J&J, to regulate themselves. The FDA claims that they don’t have the authority to force companies to test for asbestos. Whereas others claim that the FDA chooses not to enforce its authority due to pressure from the cosmetics industry.
Companies, like J&J, claim that the Reuters report is baseless and false. However, Congress is evaluating the issue more closely.
In conclusion, mesothelioma is a rare cancer that significantly impacts the lives of about twenty thousand people diagnosed with it per year. Baby powder products are the most well-known source of talc, and talc has been linked to several cases involving ovarian cancer. Researchers are now evaluating whether talc may, in fact, cause other cancers, like mesothelioma, too.
Recently Johnson & Johnson paid over $4.7 million to twenty-two women and their family members who had used talc-based products and developed ovarian cancer as a result. Although it’s not known whether exposure to talc causes mesothelioma, it has been shown that there may be asbestos in talc powder and that asbestos exposure can cause malignant mesothelioma.
It has also been proven that companies, like J&J, have known about asbestos in their talc products as far back as the 1970s and didn’t inform the public or the FDA about their independent research findings.
In the past, the FDA allowed companies to self-regulate, perhaps due to pressure from the cosmetics industry. That said, the FDA has been conducting their own research about J&J products, and they discovered asbestos in those independently tested products.
As such, Congress is now getting involved, and soon some congressional and legislative measures may be taken to protect the public and to stop the FDA from relying on companies to self-regulate when it comes to public safety.