Monday 21 October 2019

Is Talcum really that dangerous?

If you click your mouse on the underlined words, you will get more information.

In St. Louis in the USA, a jury in July 2018 awarded $550 million in compensatory damages to 22 women who said Johnson & Johnson talcum powder cased their ovarian cancer. The St. Louis Circuit Court jury also tacked on $4.14 billion in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson for not warning about the cancer risks from talcum powder and asbestos. Although other talc cases have been based on cancer claims, it’s the first case claiming an asbestos connection. Six of the women had died and family members represented them at the trial.

When someone mentions asbestos, your first thought may be of a condemned building from the 1970s. Certainly it’s nerve wracking to walk by an old office surrounded by yellow tape labeled CAUTION. But for the most part, asbestos is generally thought of as a thing of the past, banned by the EPA and therefore no longer a problem.

Mark Lanier, a Houston lawyer representing the women, said, “For over 40 years, Johnson & Johnson has covered up the evidence of asbestos in their products. We hope this verdict will get the attention of the J&J board and that it will lead them to better inform the medical community and the public about the connection between asbestos, talc, and ovarian cancer.”

Talcum, or magnesium silicate, comes from mineral talc deposits, which are mined underground. When crushed into a powdertalc has a silky, soft consistency, making it perfect for use in cosmetics, food products, vitamins, and some prescription pills.

Johnson & Johnson denied that its powder causes cancer or contained asbestos, citing decades of studies showing the talc to be safe. If that is so, why did the jury feel that the product wasn’t safe?

The St. Louis firm of Onder Law was not involved in this case but has represented women in similar suits. In February 2016, Jim Onder and his firm won a $72 million verdict in St. Louis Circuit Court on a claim by the family of the late Jacqueline Fox of Birmingham, Alabama, that her long-time use of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder for personal hygiene contributed to the ovarian cancer that killed her. That verdict was overturned in 2017. An appellate court ruled the case lacked jurisdiction in Missouri, citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision that restricted where injury lawsuits can be filed.

The St. Louis-based mesothelioma law firm of Maune Raichle Hartley French & Mudd was part of the legal team that won a $325 million award in a Johnson & Johnson talcum powder trial in New York in June 2019

Mesothelioma is a cancer of mesothelial tissue that is associated especially with exposure to asbestos. Not all talcum powder contains asbestos however, I don’t know why Johnson & Johnson denied that there was no asbestos in its talcum powder. Tests would have been undertaken by the law firms and the results would have been used in the court cases as evidence. 

Talcum powder is also used in the production of ceramics, plastics, paper, roofing, flooring and rubber. But in modern times, controversies over talcs safety have marred its reputation. There is ongoing debate over whether pure talc is associated with health risks involving asbestos.

Talcum powder  has been  used  frequently in  baby powder products, making it easy for people to inhale some of the fine powder as it is applied. Many concerned consumers have claimed they relied on these various products for a decade or longer, which could indicate long-term exposure to asbestos for talc products that have been contaminated.

How could asbestos powder get mixed with the talc powder that is used as a baby powder? I am not talking about a few containers.  I am talking about thousands of such containers. Talc is used in many cosmetics such as; lipstick, mascara, face powder, blush, eye shadow, foundation and even children’s makeup. In the list of ingredients, it can be listed as talctalcum 

Did the firm use the same industrial talc powder for baby powder and for cosmetic uses? 

Last summer, the popular tween store Justice had an asbestos-related recall for their kids’ makeup, and Claire’s jewelry had a similar recall just last month. There have also been several talcum powder lawsuits blaming asbestos-contaminated talc for causing mesothelioma. These talc-containing products were supposed to be free of asbestos, but these events go to show that we can’t be certain enough, and should always be cautious around talc and talcum powder.

Like talcum powder, fertilizer doesn’t contain asbestos on purpose. But many fertilizers and potting soil products do use a mineral called vermiculite, which often contains asbestos fibers. If you use these products in your garden, you should use caution, wear a mask, and avoid inhaling dust from the soil, which might expose you to asbestos fibers.

Johnson & Johnson may be in trouble again if newly released documents from a trial in St. Louis, is any indication. Not only did the large pharmaceutical company know about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer  which has been revealed in previous trials.  A revealing memo shows that the company may have been aware that the crushed talc it used in its baby powder and body powder products was contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen.

Earlier in ctober 2017, , lawyers representing more than 50 women in a talcum powder lawsuit unveiled documents that they claim indicate J&J was aware of asbestos fibers in its talc-based products over the course of several decades. These documents appear to contradict other memos, presented by the company’s legal team, that claim asbestos “has never been found and it never will.” Even though testing often finds no traces of the substance, there are many products that still contain asbestos today.

These revelations add a wrinkle to the already embattled pharmaceutical and consumer products company. To date, juries have found the company liable in four cases, with more than $700 million in damages being paid to women diagnosed with ovarian cancer  or to  their surviving family members.

In my opinion, the firm should be closed down and the owners should be brought to criminal courts and if convicted, sent to prison.

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