Latest US Studies Link Mesothelioma to Talcum Powder

 By Warren Miller.   29th April 2020

Recent studies at American Institutes have reinforced the link between Talcum Powder based products and malignant mesothelioma. Large companies that manufacture Talcum Powder such as Johnson & Johnson, Colgate Palmolive and Avon have argued for some time that their powder does/did not contain any asbestos.

Talcum Powder and malignant mesothelioma

A pathology group in Virginia commissioned a study that looked at malignant mesothelioma patients who considered that their only exposure to asbestos was through the use of Talcum Powder.

75 Patients, 11 male and 64 female, took part in the study. Of these 11 were tested for (carcinogenic) asbestiform fibres and all 11 contained anthophyllite or tremolite asbestos fibres.

Anthophyllite was used in limited quantities for insulation and construction, Tremolite is not used commercially.

The US Food and Drug Administration recently announced it had found asbestos contaminated talc in 9 of the 52 cosmetic products it tested in a year long study. All of the product have since been recalled. The FDA also found traces of asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder, which has helped numerous lawsuits in America by those who believe they were harmed by the Talcum Powder.

This may help to explain why there are a growing number of mesothelioma patients, usually female, do not fit the stereotype of blue-collar workers exposed to asbestos in industry.

The 75 patients included 4 that were occupationally related: Barber or a family member sweeping up at a barbers. The average age at diagnosis was 61, with 12 patients diagnosed with mesothelioma before 45 years of age. The average asbestos exposure duration was 33 years, and the average time from first exposure to mesothelioma diagnosis was 50 years. All patients said they were exposed to asbestos repeatedly for several decades.

Another recent study at Duke University in North Carolina has found that many patients with malignant mesothelioma had talcum Powder fibres in their lungs. The researchers there tested lung tissue samples from more than 600 mesothelioma patients. They used light and electron microscopes to identify the presence of asbestos, talc and other mineral fibres. Light microscopes are generally used to study living cells when relatively low magnification and resolution is enough. Electron microscopes are used to provide higher magnifications and higher resolution images but can't be used to view living cells.

The results showed that Talcum Powder fibres were detected in 62% of the mesothelioma patients, with elevated levels of talc found in 9% of men and 20% of women. This lead many to believe that talc does plays a role in the development of mesothelioma.

Asbestos and Talc - a mineral in clay mined from underground deposits - are often found close together and may often be mixed. Talc contaminated by asbestos has also been found in makeup products, crayons and toys. There is a suggestion
that there maybe other causes of peritoneal mesothelioma other than through asbestos exposure, especially in females.

In 2019 a California jury awarded $29m to a woman who said asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products caused her mesothelioma cancer. The lawsuit was brought by Mrs Leavitt, who said that she used Johnson’s Baby Powder and similar talcum powder products in the 1960s and 70s and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017. Jurors found the talc-based products used by Mrs Leavitt were defective and that the company had failed to warn consumers of the health risks, awarding $29.4m in damages to Mrs Leavitt and her husband.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and you believe that exposure to either talc or asbestos played a role, we are here to advise you or answer any questions you may have.

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