As a common ingredient in so many hygiene and cosmetic products, talcum baby powder has been used by probably millions of people. For some the use is minimal, while others have used it liberally over the years. Talcum powder comes from the mineral talc and has long been prized for being able to absorb moisture, like sweat, for deodorizing, and for reducing friction to soothe skin and to prevent rashes.
Unfortunately for the many people who have used talcum powder, there are some serious health concerns that have arisen in connection with it over the last several decades. Not least concerning of those is mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive type of cancer that often leads to death in spite of treatments. Talcum powder and mesothelioma lawsuits have been fought in the courts and at least one has been one. There may be more as even more evidence connecting the ingredient to the deadly cancer comes to light.
Talcum Powder and How It’s Used
Talc is a mineral that people have actually used for thousands of years. It is mined and used to create talcum powder by crushing the fibrous minerals into tiny particles. As a fine powder, talc is able to absorb a lot of moisture, to control odor and to add silkiness and smoothness to a lot of cosmetic products. Products that contain talcum powder include baby powders, foot powders, medicated powders, body powders, makeup products, sanitary pads, and incontinence pads, among others.
Asbestos in Talc
Talc is a natural mineral called magnesium silicate and is very similar to another group of silicate minerals called asbestos. The two minerals are found together in a lot of mining sites, which means that for a long time, trace amounts of asbestos were found in talcum powder. Since 1976, stricter processing techniques were implemented to ensure that all talc used in cosmetics, hygiene products, and even some foods, would be free of asbestos. Certain lawsuits over mesothelioma have proven that this doesn’t always happen and that sometimes this dangerous mineral finds its way into talcum powder.
Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma
Asbestos has been implicated in causing mesothelioma and although it has been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years, it has only been carefully restricted in recent decades. Asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral, like talc. It has a lot of properties that have made it so useful over the years. Asbestos is fire-resistant, heat resistant, an electrical insulator, great at absorbing sound, and has a high strength. These properties mean it has been used in a lot of applications, especially in construction and shipbuilding.
Several decades ago it became clear that being exposed to asbestos, especially inhaling its fibers, causes serious health problems. Many U.S. and international agencies have listed it as a human carcinogen and its use has been severely limited. For some applications it is completely banned. The worst types of exposure illnesses occur when someone has breathed in asbestos fibers over a long period of time: lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive and deadly type of cancer that involves the tissue that lines internal organs in the body, called the mesothelium. In people who breathed in a lot of asbestos, cancer of the mesothelium that lines the lungs is most common. It causes symptoms like shortness of breath, painful and chronic coughing, chest pains, unusual weight loss and unusual lumps under the skin of the chest. Mesothelioma can be treated, but many cases are fatal because of the aggressive way the cancer spreads.
Talcum Powder and Mesothelioma
Knowing that asbestos causes mesothelioma and that talcum powder may contain asbestos, it is not a stretch to guess that using talcum powder regularly could to this rare cancer. Talcum powder has mostly been associated with ovarian cancer in women who used it for years for feminine hygiene. Cases of talcum powder users developing mesothelioma are much less common, but they have happened and have been devastating for those who suffered.
One important study used the case of an individual woman who developed mesothelioma and investigated fifty different bottles of the talcum powder that she used for years. The researchers found that each of the samples, from various locations, had asbestos in them. This product was Cashmere Bouquet, a body powder and feminine hygiene product made by Colgate-Palmolive.
Further investigation into the talcum powder product found that the affected bottles were linked to three different mines, all of which were found to have both talc and asbestos. In spite of the 1976 shift to processing talc carefully to make sure it is asbestos-free, many women ended up with a product that was contaminated with this dangerous mineral. Too many of them suffered and developed deadly mesothelioma when they expected the products they were using to be safe. This has naturally led to talcum powder and mesothelioma lawsuits.
It’s not unusual to hear about mesothelioma lawsuits, as asbestos has been used in so many places and a lot of workers have been exposed to it and came down with this terrible cancer. Lawsuits over mesothelioma caused by talcum powder have been much less common. This may change as more research finds that asbestos particles have contaminated these products that so many people use regularly.
Not only have there been the cases of asbestos found in feminine and body powders like Cashmere Bouquet, but more recently this contamination has been found in even more widely varying products. For instance, a recent analysis found asbestos in the talc used in crayons and toy crime scene kits made in China. As probes into who is to blame for contaminated talc continue, more mesothelioma lawsuits may be filed.
Some say the makers of talcum powder products are to blame, while others are pointing fingers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A communication to the FDA was discovered in 2001 that came from a talc provider and stated that it was concerned the current techniques for testing for asbestos could not detect low levels. Some experts and advocates believe that the FDA is responsible for ensuring testing is adequate and enforced. A lot of concern for the regulation of asbestos is over the fact that China is a major supplier and has a poor safety record in a lot of industries.
Millions Won for Talcum Powder Mesothelioma Victim
The biggest lawsuit to date over mesothelioma and talcum powder was against Colgate-Palmolive and Cashmere Bouquet. The company sold the brand in 1995, but has maintained that the talc product is safe to use. Experts for the plaintiffs in the case, though, were able to give powerful testimony that included the 2014 study that tested 50 different samples of the product.
The jury ultimately sided with the plaintiff and experts and disagreed with Colgate-Palmolive’s arguments that its product did not cause her mesothelioma. Judith Winkel, 73 at the time, won a jury-awarded settlement of $12.4 million. The jury still needed to award punitive damages, but before they could Winkel agreed to an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount and the case was closed.
If this jury found that Colgate-Palmolive was negligent in mesothelioma, other plaintiffs also have a chance at winning monetary damages. If you used a talcum powder product for years and developed mesothelioma, contact a lawyer to help you decide how to make your case.