Do All Talc Products Contain Asbestos?

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It wasn’t always commonly known that talc could contain asbestos, but now—years after that discovery—talc-related asbestos exposures are still common. Not all talc products contain asbestos, but any amount is unacceptable. If you think you’ve been a victim of asbestos exposure through talc-based products, Sieben Polk P.A. can help guide you through the legal compensation process in Minnesota. 

Before it became the center of legal controversy, talcum powder was a staple in every bathroom and on every diaper-changing table. For over 100 years, Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder was a household name and on every new mother’s baby registry. 

Now, plaintiffs in 50 states have claimed that for decades, personal care products manufacturers knew that talcum powder and other talc-based products could potentially cause mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. That’s because talc is frequently contaminated with carcinogenic asbestos and asbestos fibers. 

If you’ve frequently used talcum powder or other talc-containing products, you should seek medical care at the first signal of respiratory or female reproductive symptoms. Your symptoms could be a sign of mesothelioma or ovarian cancer—both cancers linked to talc.  

You could be entitled to compensation if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, or another asbestos-related illness after long-term talc use. At Sieben Polk P.A., our experienced Minnesota mesothelioma lawyers will guide you through every step of the legal process and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Does All Talc Contain Asbestos?

Not all talc contains asbestos, but much of it does. The problem isn’t with the talcum powder itself but with where the mineral is mined.

Talc and Asbestos

In nature, talc deposits often occur adjacent to ribbons of asbestos. In fact, they often occur so close to each other that mining machinery can’t separate them in the harvesting process. 

This is a problem because asbestos is highly carcinogenic. Mesothelioma is a rare and often fatal cancer, and it’s only known cause is asbestos exposure.  

Asbestos and asbestos-contaminated talc are also known to cause the following: 

  • Cancers of the lungs, larynx, ovaries, stomach, pharynx, colon, and rectum
  • Asbestosis 
  • Nonmalignant lung disease, including pleural plaques, thickening, and effusions

When talc contains asbestos, it’s typically the most carcinogenic and dangerous forms of asbestos: tremolite and anthophyllite.

Common Talc Products Known To Contain Asbestos

Despite widespread knowledge that talc can contain asbestos, the mineral is still used extensively in product manufacturing. Chances are that most American households have talc products under their roof without realizing it.

Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder

According to a Reuters investigative report, Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that their talcum baby powder product was intermittently contaminated with asbestos. Not every batch was contaminated, but many were. 

Reuters found Johnson & Johnson records and test results showing that their talc sometimes tested positive for asbestos. One test record reports asbestos levels as “rather high” in that batch.  

Only a very small number of talc batches are ever tested, so it’s likely that a great many contaminated batches of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder went out undetected. Many women and women of color sued Johnson & Johnson for marketing their product toward them while knowing it could contain a carcinogen.  

The company also influenced the government’s plan to limit the amount of asbestos that could legally be in a cosmetic talc product. They successfully overturned the regulators and barred scientific research that would reveal the health impact of talc products.

Is Talcum Powder Still Safe to Use?

The problem with talcum powder is the talc is contaminated at the source. It wasn’t a Johnson & Johnson-specific issue. All talcum has the potential to be contaminated by asbestos because both minerals are naturally occurring in the same area.  

You can’t know whether a bottle of talcum powder is contaminated, so it’s safest to avoid using it.

Cosmetics and Makeup

Unfortunately, talc is widely used in the cosmetics, toiletry, and fragrance industries. Even though it’s known that talc is a common vehicle for asbestos exposure, a great many brands still use it as a base for eyeshadows, blushes, highlighters, and other powdered or pressed products.  

In 2020, the advocacy organization Environmental Working Group analyzed 21 talc-containing makeup products and found that 15 percent of the samples contained asbestos. 

The following three asbestos-containing products were marketed to children:

  • Claire’s Pink Glitter Palette With Eyeshadow and Lip Gloss
  • Jojo Siwa Makeup Set
  • Justice Just Shine Shimmer Powder 

As of 2023, there have been over 14,000 lawsuits against companies that make talc cosmetics products, alleging that those products caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.

It’s recommended that you only buy makeup from brands that publish their ingredients so you can verify that it’s free of talc.

Industrial and Household Talc Products

Talc appears in a wide variety of industrial and household products, including:

  • Anticaking agents
  • Ceramics
  • Crayons
  • Chalk
  • Paper
  • Ink
  • Plastics
  • Rubbers
  • Automotive parts 

These are only a few of the products containing talc. People come into contact with many of these items regularly, even daily. You don’t even have to come directly into contact with the talc-containing products to be exposed because asbestos particles become airborne upon handling.

Talc FAQs

These are the most frequently asked questions about talc and asbestos:

Does Talcum Powder Cause Cancer?

Not all talcum powder causes cancer, but it can cause cancer when contaminated with asbestos. 

Talcum powder is made from the mineral talc, which occurs naturally interwoven with asbestos. Because asbestos is thready and fibrous, separating it from talc during processing is impossible. Not all talc is contaminated with asbestos, though. Plenty of talc deposits are naturally occurring without asbestos, making them pure. However, you can’t tell whether talc is asbestos-contaminated or pure unless you get it professionally tested, which is not practical. 

When you use talcum powder, it frequently becomes airborne because it’s so light and fine. Even if you apply the powder in a careful, controlled manner, some will always end up in the air. Thus, you may inhale it, exposing your lungs and the rest of your body. 

Pure talcum powder can cause lung inflammation, coughing, and shortness of breath if you inhale it. It doesn’t cause cancer, though it can cause serious disease if the exposure is excessive. 

In addition, talcum powder is frequently used for hygiene, often exposing the reproductive system to asbestos. Asbestos-contaminated talcum powder, even if it contains only trace amounts of asbestos, can cause cancers of the lungs, ovaries, larynx, and gastrointestinal tract. It also causes mesothelioma, a cancer of the abdominal or chest lining. Mesothelioma is a rare, often fatal, and almost all cases are caused by asbestos exposure.

How Do I Know if My Talc Is Asbestos-Free?

There’s no way for you to know whether your talc is free of asbestos unless you have it professionally tested, which is expensive and not accessible for most people. 

The best way to avoid asbestos exposure through talc is to avoid using talc-based products. Any talc could be contaminated with asbestos because the two minerals naturally occur together.

How Dangerous Is Talc in Makeup?

Talc in makeup is potentially very dangerous, especially if you’re a frequent and long-term makeup user. Not all talc contains asbestos, but depending on where it was mined, it can contain asbestos. 

If you wear talc-containing makeup regularly and as part of your daily routine, you’ll expose yourself to a large amount of talc from a large number of batches over time. That makes you statistically more likely to have asbestos exposure at some point. 

It’s safest to limit makeup use to only brands that publish their ingredients so you can verify that they don’t contain talc. There’s no safe amount of asbestos exposure, so it’s best to play it safe with known substances that can contain asbestos.

What Can I Use Instead of Talcum Powder?

If you’re looking for a safe product that approximates the look and feel of talcum powder, use those containing powdered cornstarch, kaolin clay, arrowroot, or oatmeal. 

It’s not recommended to use any kind of baby powder for infants. Children have died from inhaling baby powder, which can cause serious lung injuries. Instead of baby powder, use ointments and pastes containing zinc oxide.

Can I Get Compensation for Talc-Related Asbestos Exposure?

There are two main ways to get compensation for talc-related asbestos injury: lawsuit verdicts and out-of-court settlements. Talking to a qualified asbestos injury lawyer can help you determine which route to go and walk you through the process. 

Filing lawsuits for asbestosis and other asbestos-related injuries can be time-sensitive. To build as strong a case as possible, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible to learn more. Call us with any questions you may have at 651-437-3148.

Contact Sieben Polk LawFirm today for a free initial consultation. You don’t pay us unless we obtain compensation for your claim.

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