Mesothelioma Talcum Baby Powder Lawsuits
Mesothelioma, the aggressive and deadly cancer that most commonly attacks the tissue around the lungs, is most often associated with asbestos exposure in the workplace. People who worked with or around asbestos are at a much greater risk of developing this kind of cancer. There are other associations too, and those include talcum powder and several hygiene products that contain this ingredient.
For a long time there was a mystery as to how some people had developed mesothelioma without ever knowingly having been exposed to asbestos. Research finally uncovered one explanation: talc, which is the main ingredient in talcum baby powder, is mined and sometimes contaminated with asbestos. Since the 1970s, laws have been put in place to ensure talc products are free of asbestos, but before that time many people were exposed and put at risk of developing mesothelioma and other types of cancer. Several of those people have filed lawsuits against the companies that made baby powder products.
Talc and Baby Powder
Talc and asbestos are both natural minerals that can be mined and used to make certain products. While asbestos was long mined and used in construction and other materials to add strength, insulation, and fireproofing, talc has very different uses. Talc is a soft mineral that can easily be made into a powder. It absorbs moisture and reduces friction between surfaces.
For these properties, talc has long been popular as an ingredient in beauty and hygiene products. Baby powder, for instance, is used to absorb moisture from skin and reduce friction on skin. This helps make people more comfortable and prevents rashes. Talc is also used in other beauty products, like makeup powder or eyeshadow, because of these properties.
Talcum Baby Powder, Asbestos, and Cancer
Federal regulations put in place in 1973 required that all talcum powder products be free of asbestos contamination. This regulation was put in place because it was found that people who used talcum baby powder were at a greater risk of developing mesothelioma and other cancers. Subsequent research found that many baby powder products were contaminated with asbestos, which was likely found in the same mine as the talc used to make the products.
Even long after the regulations, some studies have found that modern talcum products may still be contaminated with asbestos. These products have been linked to cases of pleural mesothelioma, likely caused when users inhale the powder that contains asbestos fibers. Some women who used talcum baby powder products for feminine hygiene later developed ovarian cancer. In studies, these women were found to have particles of talc in their ovaries, leading to the conclusion that the hygiene product was connected to the development of cancer.
$13 Million Lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive
Several people who were able to trace their cancers to the use of talcum baby powder have filed and won lawsuits against manufacturers of talc-containing products. In one case a woman, Judith Winkel, took Colgate-Palmolive to court in California over her mesothelioma. She used Cashmere Bouquet, the company’s talcum powder product, for at least fifteen years and before the 1973 federal regulations were put in place protecting consumers from asbestos.
Colgate-Palmolive denied that its product had anything to do with her cancer and took the case to court instead of settling. Winkel was awarded $13 million by the jury, including $1.4 million awarded as damages to her husband. The jury determined that the baby powder did likely contribute to or cause her mesothelioma decades after the use of the product. The company rejected the verdict, but finally settled with Winkel for an undisclosed amount. This case was the first win against Colgate-Palmolive for talc-related mesothelioma.
Record-Setting Mesothelioma Talcum Baby Powder Lawsuit
Another notable case involving mesothelioma and talcum powder ended in an $18 million dollar jury award in 2016. Philip Depoian filed the lawsuit in California against Whittaker, Clark, & Daniels, a talc supplier behind the baby powder products he claimed caused him to develop mesothelioma. Depoian worked in his father’s barbershop where talcum powder products were used every day. He claimed that inhaling the powder led to his mesothelioma diagnosis decades later.
In the lawsuit, Depoian and his lawyers accused Whittaker, Clark, & Daniels of making and marketing talc products as asbestos-free when they were not truly free of asbestos. The company supplied talc for products including the brand names Desert Flower, Friendship Garden, and Old Spice. The talc came from several mines, including those in North Carolina, Alabama, and Italy known to be contaminated with asbestos. The jury in the trial ultimately decided the company was 30 percent liable for Depoian’s illness and gave an $18 million verdict. This was the largest award in any talcum powder mesothelioma case to date.
Lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over Ovarian Cancer
In addition to the mesothelioma and talc lawsuits there have also been plenty of lawsuits targeting companies that may have contributed to ovarian cancer. One such case was filed by the family of Jacqueline Fox who died from ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s talcum baby powder products, Shower to Shine and Baby Powder for 35 years. The jury returned a verdict that the company was in fact liable for Fox’s illness and death and awarded her family a whopping $72 million. This was the first lawsuit win for a case related to baby powder and ovarian cancer.
The case led directly to a bill sponsored by Senators Feinstein and Collins of California and Maine, called the Personal Care Products Safety Act. The law would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration greater control over regulating cosmetic products and keeping consumers safe with stricter safety standards.
Not long after Fox’s case another trial ended with Johnson & Johnson again being forced to pay out a big settlement. In this case it was a $55 million jury wared to Gloria Ristesund, who developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s talcum powder products shower to Shower Powder and Baby Powder. There are now over 1,200 pending lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for similar cases of ovarian cancer.
Talcum baby powder products have been strongly linked to both mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. People who used these products for decades are most at risk. Although laws are in place to protect consumers from contaminating asbestos, companies have not always been rigorous about testing their products. The result has been cancer, deaths, a lot of suffering, and a number of lawsuits, with many more pending. If you believe your cancer diagnosis could be blamed on a talc product, contact a mesothelioma lawyer to help you make a case and give you a good chance of winning a settlement.
Page Edited by Dave Foster
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- Gordon, R.E., Fitzgerald, S. & Millette, J. (2014). Asbestos in Commercial Cosmetic Talcum Powder as a Cause of Mesothelioma in Women. Int. J. Occup. Environ. Health, 20(4), 318-32.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4164883/
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