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Mesothelioma is largely associated with continued exposure to asbestos, most often in the workplace. Men and women who worked around asbestos for decades are at risk for developing this deadly type of cancer, but there may be other sources of exposure. These include regular use of talcum baby powder, a product that may be contaminated with asbestos.
How Does Asbestos Get in Talc Products?
The main question in terms of talc causing mesothelioma is whether or not the mineral and the products made from it contain asbestos. If they do, then they could be reasonable causes of mesothelioma in people who were exposed to these powders for years.
Talc is a natural mineral. When mined, it may become contaminated with natural asbestos. In 1973, the government put regulations in place that required all talcum powders be free of asbestos, but evidence from studies and reports shows this is not always the case:
- Researchers investigated samples of a particular brand of baby powder to look for any traces of asbestos. The talcum baby powder did contain asbestos and the fact that the powder could be easily inhaled led the researchers to conclude that it could and likely did cause mesothelioma in some people.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also investigated asbestos contamination in talc. The agency tested several talc-containing cosmetic products as well as cosmetic-grade talc between 2009 and 2010 to find out if any were contaminated with asbestos. The study did not find any asbestos, but the FDA admits that the investigation was limited.
- Some critics say that the current standard methods used to test talc and products for asbestos contamination are simply not sensitive enough. An executive in a company that supplies talc admitted that the tests are outdated. The executive stated in a letter to the FDA that standard methods of detection just were not good enough to ensure asbestos-free talc.
Talcum Powder Already Linked to Ovarian Cancer
Talcum powder is used mostly by women, and ovarian cancer is a potential risk that has been studied.
- Application of baby powder to the genital area or use with sanitary napkins or tampons may be connected to ovarian cancer.
- Over time, particles of talc can make its way up to the ovaries, where they may cause damage.
- Several studies have also investigated this to determine if baby powder can cause ovarian cancer.
- Some of these have found that women who used talcum powder had an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
- The evidence is compelling enough that some women have won settlements in lawsuits over talcum baby powder and cancer.
Baby Powder May Cause Mesothelioma Too
The questions surrounding talcum baby powder and cancer have extended to mesothelioma. It has long remained a mystery how some women have developed mesothelioma. It’s much more common in men because asbestos exposure in construction, naval, shipyard, mining, and factory jobs is the leading cause.
With no known exposure to asbestos, talcum powder could be one key to the mystery of how some women have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Asbestos causes mesothelioma through the damage caused by inhaling the fibers. Because talcum powder is so light, it is common to breathe in the particles while using it. Any asbestos contaminating such a product would also be inhaled.
Are Victims Winning Lawsuits?
The evidence on asbestos in talc and how talcum powder products could contribute to mesothelioma continues to develop, but in the meantime, both men and women affected have taken action and are winning their cases:
- In 2015, a woman from California successfully sued Colgate-Palmolive over its Cashmere Bouquet. The woman said she had used the talcum powder for fifteen years and was ultimately diagnosed with mesothelioma. The company disagreed with the jury, which awarded the woman $13 million.
- In 2016, a man from California also won a talcum powder lawsuit and $18 million. The suit was filed against a company that supplied talc, Whittaker, Clark & Daniels. The defendant said the company’s talc was used in his father’s barber shop, where he spent a lot of time. Decades later, the defendant was diagnosed with mesothelioma. The talc in question came from mines in North Carolina and Alabama, known to contain asbestos.
The research and the debates over the connection between talc and mesothelioma will likely continue, but until testing methods are improved and products can be guaranteed asbestos-free, many more people may be put at risk. For those who do become sick because of talcum powder, lawsuits are always an option and one that can provide much-needed compensation as well as justice.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.