You may not have been aware, but concerns have been raised over possible contamination of a number of popular cosmetic products. Very alarming concerns in fact, as the allegations claim possible life-threatening asbestos contamination of talcum powder widely used as a base ingredient in a number of cosmetic products.
According to the FDA, since the 1960’s questions have been raised about a possible link between talc powder using cosmetics and ovarian cancer, they go on to reveal that since the 1970’s the potential for contamination of talc with asbestos has been raised, though no conclusive link has been proven.
The concerns raised were enough to prompt a quiet series of laboratory testing by the FDA which ran through September 28, 2009 through September 27, 2010 and tested approximately 34 different products.
Life-Threatening Asbestos Fibers
Asbestos is a highly fibrous and very durable material that has been used for a variety of commercial and industrial uses. Its main qualities are strength, durability, and resistance to high temperatures. Exposure to asbestos typically happens when people inhale airborne asbestos fibers. These fibers are called friable asbestos, and once inhaled, are known to settle on the lining membrane of the lungs, abdominal cavity, or pericardium.
These asbestos fibers irritate the affected tissue that they come in contact with. This happens through motion and rubbing as the tissue moves around the fibers lodged into the lining of certain organs. This irritation is what causes inflammation as well as scar tissue to develop on the surface of the mesothelium.
The scar tissue in question, caused by asbestos irritation, is also referred to as plaques. These plaques can become malignant and become the start of a cancerous mesothelioma tumor over time.
It is currently not understood how the asbestos fibers are able to reach pericardium, which envelops the heart. The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma. This type is easy to understand as inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers brings these fibers into contact with the lining of the lungs or of the abdominal cavity.
While the exposure to asbestos is the cause of mesothelioma cancer, the actual development of the cancer is due to the inflammation of the lining membrane. This is precisely why current research is being done to better understand the mechanism of the development of this disease, including what factors cause similar types of irritation and possibly contribute to cancer development. We have made available additional mesothelioma lawsuit information here.
The allegations of asbestos contaminated talc products has led to a number of studies investigating ovarian cancer links to talc-based hygiene products as well as research into any possible links the talc itself may have.
The FDA Talc Asbestos Survey
According the Food & Drug Administration, a sample of thirty four products were used ranging from low to high price including: eye shadow, blush, foundation, face powder, and body powder. Each product used talc in some way and the samples were requested of the suppliers which were sent to the laboratory to test for asbestos. Only four of nine suppliers contacted by the laboratory at the time complied with the request for samples.
The FDA talc contamination survey found no evidence of asbestos fibers in the talc containing products at the time, but fell short of proving conclusively that talc-based cosmetics are ‘likely’ to be free of asbestos fiber contamination due to the small sample size and participation of only a limited number of suppliers. In all 34 products tested, no asbestos was detected.
See survey results here: FDA Cosmetic Asbestos Survey
Does Talc Powder Contain Asbestos?
Talc powder is a mineral, the softest known, and considered harmless with a number of incredibly useful properties with a variety of uses across industries. It can be found in a variety of products including soaps, paints, ceramics, baby powder and the powder is used widely in cosmetics. Widely used for personal hygiene and cosmetics, it is currently categorized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a 2B agent: ‘probably carcinogenic’, while the FDA generally considers it safe.
The asbestos concern arises from the mineral commonly being found in close proximity to asbestos. While mining talc mineral deposits, unintentional disruption of asbestos ore can possibly lead to toxic asbestos fibers essentially mixing with the talc. Cosmetic grade talc is tested for asbestos contamination since questions were first raised in the 70’s.
In recent years a number of questions have been raised resulting from studies possibly linking genital talc-containing powder use and ovarian cancer. One study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research showed a 24% increased risk to women using talc-based powders, reported here.
Study Finds Genital Powder Increases Risk of Ovarian Cancer [JNCI]
Study: Perineal Powder No Risk Found for Ovarian Cancer [JNCI]
Study: Talc Use and Ovarian Cancer [JNCI]*
Study: Hygiene Talc Use and Links to Ovarian Cancer [IJC]
Are American Cosmetics Really Asbestos Free?
A recent study has once again raised the specter of talc asbestos contamination in cosmetic products in spite of current testing procedures. In addition, a recent landmark talc asbestos lawsuit raised significant questions about the safety of talc and its potential to expose consumers to life-threatening asbestos fibers.
“Every time I test a variety of the off-the-shelf cosmetics I always find asbestos in some of the talc,” said Fitzgerald. ”This remains a hazard to consumers that should not be ignored.”Sean Fitzgerald - SAI Laboratory
Testing for Toxic Asbestos Contamination:
Asbestos in Commercial Cosmetic Talcum Powder as cause of Mesothelioma in Women (Study: James Millette – MVA Scientific Consultants, Ronald Gordon – Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Sean Fitzgerald – SAI Laboratory)
Donald Worley, a Houston lawyer who investigates and handles mesothelioma cases, said “Recent asbestos talc studies have raised very serious questions about consumer safety, many women may have been exposed to the life-threatening fibers as they put on their makeup daily.”
A landmark talc asbestos jury trial in California recently awarded $12 million to the plaintiff in a California lawsuit which alleged her mesothelioma diagnosis resulted from asbestos exposure from talcum powder, according to court documents. The lawsuit Winkel vs. Colgate-Palmolive, Co. revealed the plaintiff was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in 2014 and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff, requiring only 2 hours of deliberation according to the McDonald Worley article on the landmark case announcement.
At the time of this writing, Johnson & Johnson face up to 700 lawsuit claims against its talc-based baby powder and shower to shower products for ovarian cancer links according to FairWarning.org.
We’ll be watching closely as further studies investigate the links between talcum powder, potential contamination with asbestos, and the potential for causing ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other life-threatening diseases.
As talc asbestos litigation proceeds in the courts, and more evidence is brought forward it may provide answers for the many women who contracted mesothelioma without an occupational exposure source.
It seems to me, a compelling case has already been made, and continued investigation remains warranted and should be vigorously pursued.
A $1.6 million New Jersey verdict in Kaenzig v. Charles B. Chrystal Co., survived court appeal March 27, reaffirming the courts opinion the raw talc supplier to the Old Spice plant the plaintiff’s father worked was providing asbestos contaminated talcum powder which led to his take-home exposure to fibers brought home on the clothes of his father returning from work.