What is Talc?
Talc is a mined mineral that contains heavy metals such as cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, and nickel. It can also contain trace amounts of asbestos (a known human carcinogen) because of where it is mined. Because talc is a common ingredient in many household products and cosmetics, it has been under scrutiny due to concerns over its possible asbestos contamination and the effects those can have on customers and employees that come into contact with it.
The Danger of Talc
The World Health Organization recognizes talc as a possible carcinogen, because of its potential to contain trace amounts of asbestos. When talcum powder is used on the genitals (such as when using baby powder), particles can migrate into the body, causing inflammation and possibly ovarian cancer. The American Cancer Society, the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer, and the National Cancer Institute consider talcum powder use near the genitals to be a great risk factor for ovarian cancer.
When breathed in, asbestos-contaminated talcum powder could cause mesothelioma (an aggressive, incurable cancer) or lung cancer.
Talc is considered a cosmetic and, as such, is not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. This has allowed companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive, and Revlon (among others) to avoid independent research and enabled them to conceal the harmful effects of their product lines over the years. The cosmetic talc industry claims to produce talc products that are asbestos-free, but experts claim the outdated tests in the industry can't detect the levels of asbestos that could be present in the talc that is used.
Johnson & Johnson Talcum Products
Johnson & Johnson talcum products, in particular, have been under intense scrutiny following recent trials that discovered there is a correlation between the use of talcum products and the development of ovarian cancer. It wasn't until May 2020 that Johnson & Johnson stopped selling their baby powder in the U.S., after years of investigations and trials that pointed to asbestos in their baby powder.
In 2016, there were two trials against Johnson & Johnson. In the first case, a St. Louis jury awarded $72 million in damages after lawyers for the Plaintiff’s Estate proved that the use of Johnson & Johnson’s talc powder caused the decedent’s ovarian cancer, which resulted in her death. In the second trial, another St. Louis jury awarded $55 million for a living plaintiff whose ovarian cancer was in remission. Both juries found that Johnson & Johnson was negligent in the research, development, testing, marketing, and sale of their talcum powers which includes Shower to Shower and Johnson’s baby powder. Johnson & Johnson failed to warn consumers of the increased risk of ovarian cancer when using talcum powder on the genital area.
Documents produced at trial showed that clinical studies in the 1970s and the 1980s showed that perineal use of talcum products caused an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson tried to downplay the epidemiological studies and ignored the requests by the medical community to warn and/or remove their products from the market. Johnson & Johnson’s own consultant advised the company to acknowledge the risk and warned of the correlation between use and ovarian cancer. In 2006, Imerys Talc America, who supplied the talc to Johnson & Johnson, began putting warning labels on talc being shipped to Johnson & Johnson, however, the company failed to pass these warnings on to the consumers and users.
If you or a loved one used talcum powder products and have been diagnosed with ovarian or lung cancer, contact our office for a free consultation.