Since 2013, thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson alleging that its baby powder and other products contain talc that has been contaminated by asbestos. Talc, a naturally occurring mineral powder, is mined in the same types of rock as asbestos.
Unfortunately, the plaintiffs say they developed cancer after using J&J’s talc products for routine hygiene.
In 2018, a Reuters investigation found that J&J had known for decades that its talc powders were sometimes contaminated by asbestos. The company disputes the report and insists that its talc products are free from asbestos. There are thousands of lawsuits waiting to contend otherwise.
Talc is widely used in cosmetics, and that could mean that any use of the products carries a risk of cancer or mesothelioma. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Other manufacturers of talc-based products have also been sued for alleged asbestos contamination. Reuters examined securities filings and court records and found that Revlon, Avon and Chanel all face such claims.
Last month, J&J announced that it would stop selling talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada. It does not admit that the product could be contaminated by asbestos. Instead, it blames the decision on flagging sales and negative publicity.
Now, a number of cosmetics companies that use talc are exploring other options.
Chanel discontinues body powder, removes talc from loose face powder
Luxury makeup brand Chanel is facing a lawsuit by a California woman who claims she got mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs or abdominal cavity, after using J&J talc products and Chanel body powder. In 2017, Chanel revealed that it had discontinued its signature Chanel No. 5 body powder, which was talc-based.
The company insisted that the body powder had been discontinued due to poor public perception.
Chanel is also removing talc from its loose face powder, although it is not clear when the new formulation will be available, and Chanel hasn’t said what will replace the talc.
Chanel continues to sell talc-based products such as pressed powder, eye shadow and blush.
Meanwhile, other cosmetics manufacturers are also reconsidering their use of talc. For example, Revlon told Reuters that it has eliminated talc from its body products, although it would not say when or why.
L’Oreal requires its talc suppliers to annually certify that their product is asbestos-free and also does in-house testing.
The reality is that talc may not be safe. If it can be contaminated by asbestos, it could be causing cancer among the many millions of people who rely on talc for personal hygiene every day. If you have developed mesothelioma or another cancer after using talc products, discuss your situation with an experienced attorney.