• A mesothelioma disease risk that is often underappreciated in the UK is asbestos from US-manufactured talc and face powders.

    People in the US are generally much more aware of this then we are here in the UK. This is partly because US big pharma have made so many of these asbestos-containing products. It is also partly because the difficulty of pursuing claims against employers in America has always made their lawyers focus on targeting manufacturers instead.

    Why was asbestos found in talc?

    Asbestos performs no useful function whatsoever in talcs and face powders. However, it so happens that in many of the mines where the silica for these products is mined, asbestos often sits alongside and contaminates the silica.

    It is important to note that not every talc deposit contains asbestos. The ones that do tend to contain highly carcinogenic tremolite or anthophyllite, and are considered more carcinogenic than chrysotile, the most commonly used type of asbestos.

    Over the years (as is so often the way), many big manufacturers tried their best to hide, and then once it became known, downplay the presence of asbestos in these products, doing nothing or little to filter them out or find alternative materials.

    Many talc and face powders made in the US but used in the UK contained asbestos traces potentially sufficient to cause mesothelioma in regular users. We are talking here household names such as Clinique and Estee Lauder. Worryingly, some of those products even contain asbestos traces to this day.

    Many manufacturers have been forced to pay up to billions of dollars in compensation to mesothelioma victims.

    Johnson & Johnson and the baby talc scandal

    In 2020 Johnson & Johnson announced that it would no longer be selling talcum-based baby powder in Canada and the US.

    The company claimed the decision was due to “consumer habits and fuelled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising.” In February this year, the Guardian reported that Johnson & Johnson is facing upwards of 30,000 lawsuits including many from women who claim they used baby powder and later developed ovarian cancer.

    It is understood that pressure is now being put on Johnson & Johnson shareholders to end sales of their talc-based baby powder not just in Canada and the US but across the world, amid concerns over its alleged links to cancer.

    Note, unlike most other talc/face-powder manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson UK had its own UK factory and talc made there came from a different mine with different asbestos content (if any).

    Mesothelioma case study

    Brachers’ Personal Injury team is currently acting with a US asbestos specialist attorney (Brendan Tully) for the widow of a mesothelioma victim whose death we believe was caused by exposure to his and his wife’s talc or face powders.

    This Kent-based man was only in his early 50s when he died. He had no known history of work occupational exposure. Although he had worked briefly as a builder in the mid-1980s as a teenager, he only worked on new builds. By this time our construction industry had stopped using asbestos materials.

    Tragically (and unusually) his mesothelioma was only finally diagnosed days before it caused his untimely death, not giving him the chance to access medical treatment that could have significantly prolonged his life.

    One of the key reasons why his mesothelioma was not picked up earlier was because he was totally unaware of any asbestos exposure, as he had had none at work.

    If his family and doctors had been aware that their regularly used US-made talc and face powders could also have exposed him to asbestos, it is possible that the mesothelioma would have been detected earlier.

    Further support

    If you would like more information on the issues covered in this article, or would like to find out more about how our friendly mesothelioma experts can help you or a loved one, please get in touch today.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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