Imerys started out in 1880 as a French mining company called Société Le Nickel. Over the next century, it grew through acquisitions and mergers with other mining companies.
By the 1970s, it began to diversify further and grow into a major multinational company under the name Imetal.
In 1999, the company changed its name again to Imerys and refocused on its core business of supplying specialty minerals. Today, Imerys operates hundreds of industrial sites across 50 countries around the world.
Imerys did not play a major role in the asbestos industry during the 20th century. Rather, the company’s liability for asbestos exposure came with its acquisition of the Luzenac Group, a major talc supplier.
Imerys Talc is liable for diseases caused by asbestos-contaminated talc mined by the Luzenac Group during the 20th century. Imerys disputes its talc has ever caused cancer, but recent lawsuits involving the company have been successful.
The Luzenac Group was named after the French village where it was founded in the 1840s. The nearby mine at Trimouns has since become one of the world’s largest talc-mining operations.
In 1988, the company was bought by the mining group Rio Tinto. It was then sold to Imerys in 2011, and the division is now known as Imerys Talc.
Talc companies have covered up the dangerous link to asbestos and mesothelioma for years.Learn About the Talc Cover-Up
Today, Imerys Talc is a leading talc producer, supplying about 15 percent of the world’s talc. It operates mines and processing facilities in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Its open-cast mine in Yellowstone, Montana, is the largest talc operation in the United States.
Talc is the softest naturally occurring mineral, and it has a variety of uses. Manufacturers use it in paper, paints, plastics, ceramics and many types of building materials. Talc is also an ingredient in some fertilizers and pesticides.
Perfumed talcum powder is a common personal hygiene product, and talc is added to many cosmetics. Purified talc is used in pharmaceuticals and certain medical procedures.
However, in recent years it has come to light that talcum powder is often contaminated with asbestos.
Talc and asbestos often occur in the same geological formations together. Before the dangers of asbestos were publically revealed, many companies neglected to check for asbestos in talcum powder products.
Asbestos-contaminated talc dust also puts miners and factory workers at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.
In 2018, a jury in New Jersey awarded a total of $117 million to Stephen Lanzo III and his wife. Lanzo had developed mesothelioma after using Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower and Baby Powder products for more than 30 years. As the supplier of the talc used, Imerys was ordered to pay $36 million of the damages.
Later that year, Imerys settled a lawsuit filed by 22 women with ovarian cancer, another disease linked to asbestos exposure. The women blamed their diagnosis on baby powder sold by Johnson & Johnson and made from talc supplied by Imerys. The settlement reportedly included a payment of at least $5 million.
In 2017, a California jury awarded $22 million to the family of Richard Booker. He died of mesothelioma the year before. Booker developed the cancer because of exposure to asbestos-contaminated talc used at the paint factories where he worked. Imerys shared part of the responsibility for supplying the talc.
Daniel King joined Asbestos.com in 2017. He comes from a military family and attended high school on a military base. He feels a close connection to veterans, military families and the many hardships they face. As an investigative writer with interests in mesothelioma research and environmental issues, he seeks to educate others about the dangers of asbestos exposure to protect them from the deadly carcinogen linked to asbestos-related conditions. Daniel also holds several certificates in health writing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read More