For the past few years, we have heard about a number of lawsuits being filed alleging that baby powder containing talc causes cancer. Last year, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay over $4 billion to a group of women who developed ovarian cancer. In 2016, the manufacturing giant was ordered to pay $55 million to a single plaintiff who developed the same disease. The alleged link between talc and cancer is not new news, but a new study that was released in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine may provide proof that baby powders containing talc cause cancer.
Johnson & Johnson has appealed all of the cases mentioned above, and many, many more, arguing that there is no definitive proof that its baby powder directly caused these individuals to develop cancer. Johnson & Johnson argues that there is conflicting evidence and there is no proof.
This new study may be just the proof necessary. Exposure to asbestos is the number one cause of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a very rare malignant cancer that develops in the thin lining surrounding most of our internal organs. The study presents the cases of 33 women who had all been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.
Asbestos is the name used to refer to six minerals that are naturally occurring with fibrous materials comprised of very thin fibers. Asbestos is typically used to strengthen material and is also used to make materials fireproof. Asbestos, for decades, was used in building materials and insulation. At the height of its use, asbestos could be found in more than 3,000 different products in addition to building materials and insulation.
The small, needle-like fibers that make up asbestos can break free, and, when inhaled into the lungs, these tiny fibers can cause mesothelioma. For this reason, many countries have banned the use of asbestos, and the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA) tried to ban its use in the United States in 1989, but was unsuccessful.
Asbestos is still used in a number of different products in the United States, including talcum powder. While Johnson & Johnson was well aware that its product contained asbestos, it has long argued that there is no proof the asbestos definitively came from its product.
DETAILS OF THE STUDY
This new study is the first that may prove a direct link between individual cases of mesothelioma and talcum powder. The study examined the cases of 33 women who were each diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. The doctors first ruled out the chance that any of the women were exposed to asbestos anywhere other than through their use of talcum powder.
Next, all of the women underwent tissue tests. The tests of their tissues showed the same asbestos fibers in their lungs that have been found in talc. The fibers found are also used in cosmetic products, but they are not used in insulation or building materials, which may prove that it is the cosmetic talc used in talcum powder that caused their asbestos.
This is the first study of its kind that will provide plaintiffs in lawsuits against manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson scientific evidence outlining the link between talcum powder and asbestos.
It is noteworthy that J&J recalled a large batch of talcum powder due to asbestos contamination. Now many stores are removing it from their shelves. It does make you wonder how many other contaminated batches of baby powder were sold to consumers in the decades before these facts came to light.