“We have this legal roadblock to disclosure – Johnson & Johnson, and any other company, isn’t required to disclose what’s actually in talcum powder or any personal care products,” says Mueller. Neither Congress nor the FDA will take a stand to make personal care product companies list all of their ingredients, to be totally transparent, so Mueller says it’s up to women and doctors, journalists and lawyers, and you to call the company and demand to know what is in their talc, currently and throughout the time it has been marketed.
Say you have an allergy to a chemical. There are no regulations in place whereby you have the right to know which products contain that chemical. But companies have known since the 1920s that talc is bad for the skin and body—when it was no longer used on surgical gloves. Even with this knowledge of talc problems, including severe inflammation, companies continued to use talc in makeup, tampons, baby powder and even as “dry” lubricant on condoms. So why can women put that same product onto their skin and inside their bodies?
“A so-called trade secret is confidentiality of company materials, which are typically produced in courts during discovery,” Mueller explains. “Lawyers involved in a case are almost always ordered by the judge to sign a confidentiality agreement, so they cannot use this information outside of court. Broad orders from the court and discovery ruling tie up everyone’s hands. There isn’t enough of a push to get the judge to rule that information – such as J&J disclosing all their ingredients in talcum powder—should be released to the public and health experts.”
If you look at a current bottle of baby powder it will most likely say “talc, parfum.” Parfum or scent (perfume) is almost always a cocktail of a wide range of chemicals including potentially carcinogenic, endocrine and immune system disrupting ingredients. There needs to be disclosure of all these ingredients, as well as any preservatives, stabilizers or chemicals retained from processing and packaging of the product. Because of the veil of secrecy, lawyers, consumers and medical professionals outside of a specific case do not have access to the information that is produced in discovery.
Personal Care Product Statistics
When it comes to Personal Care Products, it’s like the Wild West. Products most likely to get into your body, to do the most harm, are not regulated. On average, women use twice as many personal care products as men, and maybe women in the south three times as much. Mueller points out that J&J heavily marketed feminine hygiene products to African American and Hispanic women, many of whom were located in the more hot and humid southern states. And it worked: women sprinkled talcum powder on their sheets and underwear and their bodies. (It would be interesting to find out if ovarian cancer is more prevalent in the south.)
According to the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average adult uses nine personal care products each day, with 126 unique chemical ingredients. More than a quarter of all women and one of every 100 men use at least 15 products daily. A personal care product use survey of more than 2,300 people conducted by the EWG and in combination with other studies show that people are exposed to hundreds of chemicals over the course of a day.
Call to Action
“I think you will see that these chemicals are not very good for you. And I think we will eventually get judges to demand companies like J&J are fully transparent, but they must be pressured to do so,” says Mueller. “The press should be calling J&J and asking why they won’t tell us what’s in their baby powder.” For instance, what are the chemicals used in processing, preserving, and creation of the scent or “parfum”? We already know that talc grows with asbestos, but what about all the ingredients we don’t know about?
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Mark Mueller has developed a national reputation for obtaining high settlement values and winning verdicts in complex and difficult cases in a wide variety of venues throughout Texas and other states. In addition to his substantial and often precedent-setting birth injury work, Mueller has been involved in medical product liability cases, exposure to environmental toxins, as well as catastrophic oil field and construction injuries and deaths, whistle blower and consumer fraud cases.