Last modified: June 7, 2021
Talc and Asbestos
Talc is the softest mineral on Earth. It is used in industrial and consumer products. The most widely used consumer talc product is talcum powder.
Finely crushed talcum powder is valued for its ability to absorb moisture and provide lubrication at the same time. People have used talcum powder products to dry, protect and perfume their skin for more than a century. Industrial talc is used in the production of ceramics, plastics, paper, roofing, flooring and rubber.
But in modern times, controversies over talc’s safety have marred its reputation. Geologically, talc and asbestos can naturally form together. Not every talc deposit is contaminated with asbestos. The ones that are contaminated tend to contain highly carcinogenic tremolite or anthophyllite – both forms of amphibole asbestos – rather than chrysotile, which is the serpentine form of asbestos.
Asbestos exposure through contaminated talc products can cause cancer. Lawsuits are now holding talc manufacturers liable when people develop asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma. In recent years, asbestos talc lawsuits have resulted in several multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements.
Companies Associated with Contaminated Talc Products
Companies began selling talcum powder in the late 1800s to prevent and alleviate skin irritations such as chafing and diaper rash. Pulverized talc became known by many names, including “medicated powder” and “foot powder.” But its most famous branding came with the introduction of Johnson’s Baby Powder in 1894.
Numerous companies sold perfumed talcum powder as a face-dusting powder for women and aftershave powder for men, including Old Spice. Johnson & Johnson maintained its prime position in the industry with its Shower to Shower line of body powder products.
Manufacturers and distributers of these brands and their talc suppliers include:
- Beauty Plus Global Inc.
- Imerys Talc America Inc.
- Johnson & Johnson
- Shulton Co. (now owned by Proctor & Gamble)
- Vanderbilt Minerals
- Whittaker, Clark & Daniels
Types of Talc Products Containing Asbestos
Asbestos-contaminated talc products have included personal hygiene products such as talcum powder and baby powder; cosmetics, including makeup; and industrial talc products such as raw talc used to thicken paint.
Contamination of these products with asbestos has ranged from traces in cosmetics to significant amounts reaching 50% and higher in industrial products.
Talcum Powder and Baby Powder
In 1976, researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital examined 19 samples of American talcum powder products and found asbestos in 10 of them, with the asbestos content ranging from 2% to as much as 20%, depending on the brand.
Since then, other brands of talcum powder and baby powder have tested positive for asbestos.
Talcum powder brands associated with past asbestos contamination 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
- Faberge 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
Cosmetic Talc Products
Talc used in cosmetics also has a history of asbestos contamination. Several cases of contamination have involved children’s makeup sold by national retailers Justice and Claire’s.
In addition to talcum powder, cosmetic-grade talc is used in many different cosmetic products, including foundation, creams and moisturizers, eye shadow, blush and mascara. Cosmetic-grade talc is approximately 98% pure talc.
Asbestos in makeup only recently became a public concern. The issue of asbestos in talcum powder has been known since the 1970s.
Talc-containing cosmetics that tested positive for asbestos include:
- Beauty Glazed Gorgeous Me Eye Shadow Tray Palette
- City Color Collection Matte Blush
- City Color Cosmetics Timeless Beauty Palette
- City Color Bronzer (Sunset)
- City Color Shimmer Bronzer
- Claire’s Ultimate Mega Make Up Set
- Claire’s Metallic Hot Pink Glitter 48 Piece Makeup Set
- Claire’s Pink Glitter Cellphone Makeup Compact
- Claire’s Bedazzled Rainbow Heart Makeup Set
- Claire’s Rainbow Bedazzled Star Make Up Set
- Claire’s Rainbow Glitter Heart Shaped Makeup Set
- Claire’s Mint Glitter Make Up Set
- Claire’s Rainbow Bedazzled Rectangle Make Up Set
- Claire’s Pink Glitter Palette with Eyeshadow & Lip Gloss
- Jmkcoz 120 Colors Eyeshadow Palette
- JoJo Siwa Makeup Set
- Justice Just Shine Shimmer Powder
Industrial Talc Products
Industrial talc is used in a variety of industries to manufacture many modern products.
The agricultural industry uses it as an anti-caking agent in animal feed. The ceramics industry uses it to make ceramic tiles, artware and finishing glazes. Industrial talc is added to coatings such as paint and glazes to improve texture and enhance matting and paint adhesion.
Talc is used in the paper industry to improve printability and reduce surface friction. The plastics and rubber industries use talc as filler and to improve molding ability. Industrial talc is even used in wastewater treatment plants to purify water.
Industrial-grade talc contains a variety of other minerals in varying quantities, depending upon the geologic source. For example, the industrial talc product known as Nytal 100, which was used in ceramics, contains 30% talc, 40% tremolite, 20% serpentine and 10% anthophyllite asbestos.
Vanderbilt Minerals produced Nytal, which was used by many industries, including the painting and plumbing industries, to make a variety of products. It was widely used in the art industry to make pottery, ceramic wall tiles and artware.
There is controversy around the asbestos content in Nytal. Numerous scientists claim it contains asbestos and other asbestiform minerals. Vanderbilt and its scientists claim Nytal contains fibers that may look like asbestos but are not a harmful form of asbestos.
Vanderbilt stopped selling Nytal in 2008 because of the controversy. It also shut down its talc mining operations in New York in 2008. Several courts have held Vanderbilt liable for cases of mesothelioma that developed among people who worked with Nytal.
Industrial talc is incorporated into many different products, including:
- Ceramic tiles
- Electrical switchboards
- Electric cables
- Rubber gloves
- Plastic automotive parts
- Rubber sealants and gaskets
- Jointing compounds, putties and adhesives
- Household appliances such as stoves, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers
Contaminated Talc Products and Mesothelioma
Current research indicates that pure talc does not cause mesothelioma. But talc that is contaminated with asbestos and asbestiform minerals has led to the development of mesothelioma.
Geologically, talc and asbestos can naturally form alongside each other. Not every talc deposit is contaminated with asbestos. The types of asbestos most likely to contaminate talc include tremolite and anthophyllite. They are considered more carcinogenic than chrysotile, the most-used type of asbestos.
In 2019, a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine presented case studies of 33 people with mesothelioma whose only exposure to asbestos was using asbestos-contaminated talcum powder.
Several scientific studies have shown that mining and milling asbestos-contaminated talc causes asbestos-related diseases and talcosis, which is a pulmonary disorder similar to asbestosis and silicosis.
A 2002 exposure study published in the Annals of Work Exposures and Health found excess cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related lung diseases among talc miners in upstate New York.
The mines involved in the study are in the counties of St. Lawrence and Jefferson, the hub of which was a town called Gouverneur, where R.T. Vanderbilt Company Inc. operated a talc mine. Researchers say the talc mines in this area contain asbestos and asbestiform minerals.
Asbestos-contaminated talc is known to cause:
- Ovarian cancer
- Lung cancer
If you’re concerned that you may have been exposed to asbestos-contaminated talc, you may consider seeking the opinion of a mesothelioma specialist or a pulmonologist with experience in asbestos-related diseases. Diagnosing these conditions early and treating them with the latest therapies offers the best chance of long-term survival.
For those worried that talc products they already own may contain asbestos, the best solution is to dispose of them and replace them with talc-free products. There are no clear regulations on how to dispose of contaminated talc, but you may call your local environmental quality department to inquire about how to dispose of asbestos-contaminated materials.
Compensation for Exposure to Asbestos-Contaminated Talc
Multimillion-dollar verdicts have been awarded in recent talc lawsuits. In June 2020, the Missouri Court of Appeals ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.1 billion to 22 women claiming J&J’s baby powder caused them to develop ovarian cancer. The company has paid out millions in individual lawsuits, including $325 million in 2019 to Donna Olsen, who claimed she developed mesothelioma by using Johnson’s Baby Powder
Other companies that have been ordered to pay out big verdicts include:
- Imerys Talc America and Vanderbilt Minerals paid $22 million in 2017 to the estate of a man who died of mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos-contaminated talc used to make paint.
- Whittaker, Clark & Daniels paid $16.5 million in 2017 to Florence Nemeth, who claimed she developed peritoneal mesothelioma from using Desert Flower Dusting Powder.
- Colgate-Palmolive paid $13 million in 2015 to a woman who developed mesothelioma using Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder.
Records revealed in lawsuits show that some of these manufacturers and talc suppliers, including Vanderbilt Minerals and Imerys Talc America, were aware of asbestos contamination and tried to cover it up. Imerys even blended its talc with other sources of the mineral to dilute the asbestos concentration.
Many companies sourced their talc from asbestos-contaminated mines, including sites in New York, North Carolina, Alabama, Vermont and northern Italy. Some of the products sold in the U.S. that tested positive for asbestos, including children’s makeup sold by Claire’s stores, were made in China, which has no regulations on asbestos or talc. Claire’s recalled children’s products that tested positive for asbestos in 2017 and 2018.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, an experienced mesothelioma attorney can review your case to guide you on your legal options. You may qualify to file a personal injury lawsuit or submit a claim to an asbestos trust fund. If you’ve lost a loved one to an asbestos-related disease you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.
Common Questions About Talcum Powder
- How does asbestos get into talcum powder?
Talc and asbestos are minerals that naturally form close to one another. Some talc deposits are contaminated with asbestos, and they are difficult to separate, which is how asbestos ends up in the final product.
- What products have talc in them?
Talc is common in many industrial and consumer products such as household appliances, bathroom fixtures, electric cables, automotive parts and rubber gaskets. Cosmetic-grade talc is also present in makeup, deodorant, creams and, most notably, Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder.
- How does talcum powder cause cancer?
Asbestos in contaminated talcum powder can be inhaled while applying the product. If used on genitals, asbestos can travel inside the body. Once inside the body, asbestos fibers migrate to sensitive tissues in the chest and abdomen, slowly causing diseases such as mesothelioma cancer.
- Can you sue for talc-related mesothelioma?
Talc-related mesothelioma is caused by asbestos contamination, and affected patients have the right to file an asbestos claim. A mesothelioma lawyer helps patients claim compensation to pay for medical costs and related expenses.
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