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4 FAQs about ongoing talcum powder litigation

The moment when you get the diagnosis of mesothelioma can be a difficult one. Although it is a rare cancer, it is aggressive and there is no cure.

The diagnosis may seem out of the blue, but there is a common link for people with mesothelioma: exposure to asbestos. After decades of research and litigation, many courts have found companies liable for allowing people to be exposed to this toxic substance through their products. One such company getting increasing attention is Johnson & Johnson.

With numerous cases still pending versus Johnson & Johnson, there are many unanswered questions about what the recent verdicts involving Johnson & Johnson mean for people with mesothelioma. Here are a few FAQs about the ongoing talcum powder/mesothelioma litigation.

How does asbestos get in talcum powder?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that used to be mined specifically for its use in a lot of products, especially for its fire-resistant qualities. Once the public learned of the health hazards associated with exposure to asbestos, asbestos mines in the U.S. began to shut down. The last mine closed in 2002.

Unfortunately, however, that didn't mean the end of asbestos getting into products you might use every day. Believe it or not, asbestos is still being imported into the U.S.

Since asbestos occurs naturally, it can end up in talcum powder because talc and asbestos have similar properties and often exist in the same mines. Some of the evidence against Johnson & Johnson suggest it knew or should have known its talcum/baby powder was contaminated and yet it did not investigate further, alter its production process, or warn the public. A few juries finding Johnson & Johnson liable have relied upon this evidence to render multi-million dollar verdicts.

What does it mean for there to be a mistrial?

Recently, a case against Johnson & Johnson in California ended in a mistrial. In simple terms, it means that the jury couldn't decide whether Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder caused the plaintiff's mesothelioma. In this instance, neither side won.

What about when a company like Johnson & Johnson wins?

In a recent case in New Jersey, the jury found that Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder was not the cause of the plaintiff's mesothelioma.

Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint when and how someone was exposed to asbestos, especially where, for instance, neither they nor any loved one worked in an occupation commonly associated with asbestos exposures (such as pipefitters, insulators, and laborers).

Why is it so difficult to pinpoint what caused someone's mesothelioma?

It takes a long time to develop mesothelioma. There could be decades between your first exposure to asbestos and your first symptoms or diagnosis with an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma. The long incubation period means that it can be difficult, but not impossible, to pinpoint what exposure caused this aggressive cancer. Sometimes, the only identifiable source of possible exposure is talcum/baby powder.

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