What Exactly is Baby Powder Made of and Is It Safe?

A Breakdown of the Elements Contained in Baby Powder

December 16, 2019 - Johnson & Johnson has been facing lawsuits regarding their baby powder with talc, for about six years. Many of the lawsuits which have been heard at trial were decided in favor of the plaintiffs, however J & J has appealed every decision, with the majority being reversed. It is important to note, however, that the verdicts were not reversed due to scientific data proving there was no risk from using the talcum powder, rather the reversals were for errors of law and venue issues. Women have been using J & J baby powder with talc for feminine hygiene purposes for decades, meaning the talc fibers can migrate up through the reproductive tract, becoming embedded in the ovaries.

Once the fibers embed in the ovaries, they cause inflammation. Over the years, that inflammation results in ovarian cancer. Across the nation, there are currently more than 20,000 pending lawsuits against J & J from women who developed ovarian cancer after using J & J’s baby powder with talc or Shower to Shower with talc for feminine hygiene purposes. Recently, a new issue with J & J powders with talc has come to light when 33,000 containers of baby powder with talc were pulled from the shelves when asbestos was found in the powder. The presence of asbestos—a known carcinogen—is very likely to ramp up the number of lawsuits against the pharmaceutical giant.  

What Has Historical Testing Revealed About Baby Powder with Talc? Prominent medical researchers, including Dr. Daniel Cramer and Professor Karin Rosenblatt, have agreed that regular perineal use of products containing talc can increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 30 percent. Talcum powder has also been associated with respiratory issues, such as mesothelioma, when the powder becomes airborne during normal application. Scientists note that talc has a chemical similarity to asbestos. Both are silicate minerals, and both have a crystalline structure. There are differences between fibers, which are often subtle, and governmental health and safety agencies do not have consistent guidelines for what constitutes asbestos.

In general, experts consider asbestos fibers to be 0.5 micrometers or less in diameter—a human hair is typically at least ten times that size. The talc flakes in talcum powder can also obscure other elements, sometimes resembling asbestos. An expert in the recent trials, Dr. William Longo, tested samples of J & J’s baby powder with talc originating from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s; 99 percent of the samples contained fibrous talc, while 66 percent had low levels of asbestos. Longo has been criticized for using methods that do not differentiate between asbestiform and non-asbestiform minerals, however, he remains an expert in the field and will likely be testifying at many of the upcoming trials.

What is the Breakdown of the Elements in Baby Powder? Even though asbestos probably makes up a small percentage in talcum powders, there are no safe levels of asbestos. The fibrous talc occurs in percentages up to 10-12 percent, which is very significant as it is a potent carcinogen, present in high volumes. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2019 presented case studies of 33 people diagnosed with mesothelioma whose only exposure to asbestos was through the use of asbestos-contaminated talcum powder.  Asbestiform refers to minerals which include taconite, winchite, richterite, and erionite, all of which have a crystal-like structure resembling asbestos.

Talc and asbestos often form naturally, next to one another, and while not every talc deposit is contaminated with asbestos, the ones that are, tend to have both types of asbestos—amphibole, and chrysotile. Different grades of talc may contain varying degrees of asbestos contamination, with medical-grade talc being about 99 percent talc, and cosmetic-grade talc being about 98 percent talc. Talc used in medicine is reportedly asbestos-free, due to sterilization prior to use.

How an Experienced Talcum Powder Attorney Can Help - Having an experienced talcum powder attorney on your side who can sift through the facts—and who has the required knowledge of the collective data on talcum powder—is essential to your success in recovering damages for your injuries. It is extremely important that your claim is filed in a timely manner, and that the facts of your individual claim be carefully evaluated. Contact an experienced talcum powder cancer attorney today for help with your claim.

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Author: Andrew Sullo
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Andrew Sullo

Andrew SulloAndrew Sullo

Andrew Sullo is a National Trial Lawyer's Top 100 Selection for 2013-2019. He is a member of the American Association of Justice (2013-2019), and a recipient of the 2019 AVVO Client's Choice Award.

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