When people think of mesothelioma, they often think of workers exposed to asbestos as part of their jobs. It's certainly true that a large number of mesothelioma cases involve people who handled asbestos in a work environment or lived with those who did. Mesothelioma is a deadly and aggressive cancer that can be quite debilitating before eventually proving fatal. While there are treatments to slow its progression, currently there is no cure.
Recent new stories have brought public attention to another potential source of asbestos contamination — talcum powder. This common substance was a staple in American homes for decades. However, new evidence showing it was contaminated with asbestos has been the impetus of multiple lawsuits against major bath and beauty companies, as well as some retailers. People with no other known exposure to asbestos who used talcum powder have developed mesothelioma, leading to concerns about a potential connection.
Mother diagnosed with mesothelioma recently awarded nearly $26 million
In May, a California jury awarded a female plaintiff $25.7 million in her asbestos-related lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, as well as Cyprus Amaz Minerals and other talc suppliers. Jurors found Johnson & Johnson responsible and awarded the plaintiff a significant amount. $21.7 million of that amount was compensatory damages for her mesothelioma. The court also ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay another $4 million in punitive damages.
This is not the first successful asbestos-related lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, and it very likely will not be the last. As more people hear about the potential connection between regular talcum powder use and mesothelioma, it's very possible the company will face many more lawsuits or even a class action lawsuit.
Johnson & Johnson maintains that their product is safe
Although there are memos from as far back as the 70s discussing potential asbestos contamination of talcum powder (and even how much is safe to include in a commercial product), Johnson & Johnson denies all responsibility. Instead of taking steps to ensure their products are safe and their consumers are well-informed, they simply want to avoid responsibility for any damages people suffered.
Asbestos deposits often exist in close proximity to talc deposits. Cross-contamination of the two substances is common. In order to properly ensure consumer safety, Johnson & Johnson should perform chemical testing on all areas of their mines and each batch of talcum powder. Failing to do so could put consumers at risk.
For those who develop mesothelioma without ever having exposure in work environments or through loved ones, talcum powder could be the missing connection. People who use the powder often apply it to undergarments or even directly on genitals. Parents also apply it to their children's bottoms to prevent diaper rash. Both parent and child could potentially inhale asbestos if they use contaminated talcum powder.