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Colgate-Palmolive Reaches Landmark Settlement in Talcum Powder Case

The Colgate-Palmolive company was recently ordered to pay more than $12 million to a woman whose mesothelioma—a highly uncommon and aggressive cancer type associated almost exclusively with exposure to asbestos over the long term—was allegedly caused by long-term use of a talc product the company produced during the 1960s and 1970s.

The allegations

The ill woman in question—Judith Winkel—has asserted that her sickness came about due to talcum powder products sold by Colgate under the name “Cashmere Bouquet” during the entirety of the 1960s and part of the 1970s. This talcum powder product was alleged to have been made of talc mined from seams where asbestos contamination may have been a distinct possibility. Many talcum powder products were discontinued in light of allegations that talc itself may have been a carcinogen, or a substance that causes cancer.

The settlement

Although the Colgate-Palmolive company paid out millions of dollars to Mrs. Winkel in light of the charges against them, the company does not acknowledge any wrongdoing or in any way accept responsibility for the cancer that has come to plague the 73-year-old Winkel during her retirement years. Asbestos exposure on a regular basis—such as that possibly experienced by Mrs. Winkel when she dusted herself with Cashmere Bouquet each day for more than 15 years—can lead to severe, life-threatening illness. Winkel has not experienced any other known risk factors for malignant mesothelioma.

How talc can be contaminated

Many naturally occurring seams of talc occur alongside seams of naturally occurring asbestos, meaning that when the end of one seam is hit, it can dig into the other seam and cause cross-contamination between talc and asbestos. In the first two-thirds of the 20th century, testing for contaminants in products such as talcum powder and even vermiculite—another substance often found in seams alongside asbestos under the earth’s crust—was neither comprehensive nor mandatory. Modern-day talc-based products generally undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are untainted by carcinogenic minerals like asbestos.

Will Colgate-Palmolive be alone?

Although the FDA recently released a report stating that many commonly available talc-based products have been tested and declared asbestos-free, the long latency period for mesothelioma cancer still raises a concern for persons who used talcum powder products during prior decades. Mesothelioma rates are expected to rise sharply over the next several years as more and more cases of asbestosis and mesothelioma come to light—decades after their victims’ last exposure to asbestos.

Source: http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm293184.htm

Tamara VanWormer

Tamara VanWormer is a writer and editor based in southern California, in a small town adjacent to the United States border with Mexico. Her career path was dappled with dabblings in various fields, including several years spent in healthcare, which gave her access to the latest information about cutting-edge cancer research and sparked her interest in mesothelioma diagnosis and care.

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