Talcum Powder Lawsuit Update

A South Carolina jury ordered talc supplier Whittaker, Clark & Daniels to pay $29.14 million to a 36-year-old mother of three who developed mesothelioma from asbestos-contaminated cosmetics. The jury found the now-defunct company knew about the deadly connection between talc and asbestos and was liable for Sarah Plant’s diagnosis.

The case is believed to be the first talc claim against cosmetics giant Mary Kay, which, along with pigment company Color Techniques, came to a confidential settlement with Plant’s legal team before the trial. Other companies named in the litigation — including Avon Products, Johnson & Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive and talc manufacturer IMI Fabi — were either dropped from the case or cleared of wrongdoing. Plant’s legal team hopes to take Johnson & Johnson to trial soon.

The jury award covers $871,356 in previous medical expenses, $3.3 million for future medical expenses, $20 million for pain and suffering and $5 million for loss of consortium. Plant, whose children are 2, 4 and 7, said she used talc-containing cosmetics and body products for decades.

Johnson and Johnson Asbestos Lawsuit

In 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice issued subpoenas for an ongoing investigation into asbestos contamination in Johnson & Johnson talc products. To date, more than 40,000 people have filed lawsuits against J&J for asbestos exposure. The company has paid billions to settle legal cases for individuals who have developed mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

In May 2020, the company stopped sales of talc-based baby powders in the United States and Canada. J&J has also recalled 33,000 containers of baby powders after a trace amount of asbestos was found in a container.

The ruling, in late January 2023, prevents the company from funneling the claims through a subsidiary that would file Chapter 11, opening the door to an asbestos bankruptcy trust fund. The maneuver, informally known as the Texas Two-Step, would have limited Johnson & Johnson’s legal liability to scores of injured victims and their families. Already, Johnson & Johnson faces $3.5 billion in verdicts and mesothelioma lawsuit settlements, including a $2 billion jury award to 22 women who developed cancer after using the company’s talcum powder products.

Talc Powder Lawsuit

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Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits

Since the early 2000s, scores of women who used talc-based powders and products have filed successful ovarian cancer lawsuits. At-fault companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Avon have paid billions of dollars in jury awards but have not admitted any wrongdoing. Johnson & Johnson alone faces more than 37,500 lawsuits due to its asbestos-containing talc products.

Among the largest jury awards resulting from a Johnson & Johnson talc asbestos lawsuit was in 2019 when the jury awarded $4.7 billion to 22 ovarian cancer patients who had used the company’s baby powder products for years. In December 2022, a jury awarded $52.1 million to a 76-year-old woman who developed mesothelioma after decades of using Avon powder products. In all instances, the juries determined the companies knew about the dangers but hid the information from the public.

Talcum Powder and Cancer

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified asbestos-containing talc as carcinogenic to humans. Asbestos-contaminated talc has been proven to cause many types of cancer.

  • Mesothelioma – An aggressive form of cancer, mesothelioma targets the thin tissue surrounding the lungs, abdomen, and heart. In February 2020, a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine linked asbestos-contaminated talcum powder to 75 confirmed mesothelioma cases.
  • Lung Cancer – Although most lung cancer cases are attributed to smoking and radon exposure, 3 to 4% of cases are linked to asbestos. Like mesothelioma, lung cancer takes decades to develop. Smoking also worsens asbestos lung cancer.
  • Ovarian Cancer – Individuals who dusted themselves with talcum powder, particularly in the genital area, area more susceptible to asbestos contamination and disease. Studies dating to the 1970s found talc particles in ovarian cancer tumors.
  • Endometrial Cancer – One study found talcum powder may increase the risk of endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women.

Avon Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Avon, the cosmetic giant known for its door-to-door saleswomen, faces scores of lawsuits related to the company’s use of asbestos in its talc-based hair, face and body products. In December 2022, a jury awarded $52.1 million in damages to a 76-year-old woman who developed mesothelioma after decades
of Avon use. The jury determined the company knew about the asbestos dangers but hid the truth.

Many of Avon’s products contain finely ground talc, a soft mineral that forms with asbestos in rock formations. As a result, talc and asbestos are often mined together and used to make talcum powder. Some of Avon’s talcum-based products include face powder, setting powder, dry shampoo and body powder.

Talcum Powder Lawsuit FAQ’s

Which companies are known for manufacturing and supplying talcum powder?

  • Johnson and Johnson
  • Whittaker, Clark & Daniels
  • Avon Products Inc.
  • Colgate-Palmolive
  • Imery’s Talc America Inc.
  • Valiant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.
  • Cyprus Amax Minerals Company
  • Shulton Company
  • Pfizer Inc.
  • Gold Bond Inc.

What products are known to contain talcum powder?

In the early 1890s, Johnson & Johnson introduced Johnson’s Baby Powder to aid in skin chafing and diaper rashes. Johnson’s Baby Powder quickly became the go-to powder for babies. Other companies produced their own lines, including making products also marketed to adults. Some of those products include:

  • Bauer & Black Baby Talc
  • Cashmere Bouquet Body Talc
  • Chanel No. 5 After Bath Powder
  • Coty Airspun Face Powder
  • Desert Flower Dusting Powder
  • English Leather After Shave Talc
  • Faberg Brut Talc
  • Friendship Garden Talcum Powder
  • Johnson’s Baby Powder
  • Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower Products
  • Kings Men After Shave Talc
  • Mennen Shave Talc
  • Old Spice After Shave Talc
  • Pinaud Clubman Talc Powder
  • Rosemary Talc
  • Yardley Invisible Talc
  • Yardley Black Label
  • ZBT Baby Powder

What type of products can lead to secondhand talc exposure?

With about a dozen talc mines in the United States, are exposed on the job every day. Their families are also vulnerable to secondhand exposure. The risk of asbestos exposure goes beyond powders. The mined talc is used for other products, including:

  • Adhesives
  • Automobile airbags
  • Ceramic Tiles
  • Chalk
  • Chewing gum (to prevent sticking)
  • Clay
  • Crayons
  • Electric cables
  • Electrical switchboards
  • Gaskets
  • Household appliances
  • Ink
  • Makeup (including pressed and loose powders)
  • Paper
  • Plastic automotive parts
  • Porcelain
  • Pottery
  • Rice (to prevent sticking)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Rubber sealants
  • Sporting activities (such as gymnastics)

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Written and legally reviewed by Daniel Wasserberg

Attorney and On-Site Legal Advocate

Daniel Wasserberg was a New York metropolitan area “Super Lawyer Rising Star” from 2013 to 2018 (attorneys under age 40), and a Super Lawyer in 2019. In 2017, Daniel was named a “Top 100 Civil Litigator” by the National Trial Lawyers organization. This recognition is rarely awarded to attorneys under the age of 40. Daniel is proud to call himself a Trial Lawyer, and is often asked to speak at gatherings of the nation’s leading attorneys, from both sides of the bar.

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