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Asbestos-Containing Talcum Powder and Risk for Asbestos Mesothelioma
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Lawsuits have been filed against some talc companies alleging talc powder contains asbestos and consumers were not adequately warned about the risk of asbestos in talc powder. Although home talcum products are supposed to be asbestos-free, there are concerns some talcum products still contain asbestos. Furthermore, it can take decades for exposure to asbestos products to result in mesothelioma and other illnesses, meaning people who were exposed in the 1970s may still be diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses.
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Talcum powder (also called talc) is powder made from talc, which contains a variety of minerals. It is used to absorb moisture, keep skin dry and prevent rashes. Many cosmetic products, including baby powder and facial powder, contain talc. Additionally, because it is so soft, talc is used in a variety of other products, including paints, papers, chalks, and ceramics.
Some talc is tainted with asbestos because talc deposits are often found at the same sites that asbestos deposits are found. According to the American Cancer Society, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classifies talc that contains asbestos as carcinogenic to humans. The FDA considers it unacceptable for cosmetic talc to contain asbestos.
In 1973, federal regulators banned companies from selling talcum products that contained asbestos. Although 40 years have passed since those laws were enacted, lawsuits concerning asbestos in talc are still being filed because mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer—all linked to asbestos exposure—can take decades to appear after asbestos exposure. There are also concerns that some cosmetic talc products still contain asbestos, putting younger women at risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.
According to a study published in 2014 in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, at least one brand of talcum powder contained asbestos, which was released into the air during application. Investigators concluded that the woman in the study had inhaled asbestos fibers—including anthophyllite and tremolite asbestos fibers—from her use of talc powder.
In May 2015, Judith Winkel was awarded $12 million in her lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive, which used to sell Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder. Winkel was diagnosed with mesothelioma and says she used Cashmere Bouquet from 1961 to 1976.
Asbestos in Talc Lawsuits
Other lawsuits have involved consumers who used talc products and employees who either mined or otherwise worked with talc that contained asbestos. According to Salon (9/13/15), Colgate has settled three more mesothelioma cases since Winkel's award was announced. Colgate has denied that its talc contains any asbestos.
According to the company's quarterly report (7/30/15), it faces 23 lawsuits in state and federal courts, including 11 that were filed since March 31, 2015.
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