Talc, also called “talcum powder” is a naturally occurring mineral. It is widely used in products ranging from baby powder to cosmetics. Unfortunately, talc is mined in the same geologic areas as asbestos, and it may be possible for talc to be contaminated by asbestos. If it is, consumers are at serious risk of asbestos-derived diseases including cancer and mesothelioma.
Thousands of consumers have filed suit against Johnson & Johnson, a market leader in talc-based products including its signature baby powder. They claim that Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and other talc products were routinely contaminated by asbestos, and that exposure to this asbestos caused the plaintiffs’ cancer.
In 2018, Reuters published an investigative report alleging that Johnson & Johnson has known for decades that its talc-based products were sometimes contaminated by asbestos. Johnson & Johnson denies the Reuters report and insists that its talc products contain no asbestos.
Lawsuits have also been filed against other companies that manufacture and distribute talc-based products, including Chanel, Revlon and Avon.
Late last month, Johnson & Johnson announced that it will stop selling its talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada. It said that declining sales and negative publicity had driven the decision.
Citing market shifts, bad publicity, brands partially divest from talc
Now, other manufacturers are pulling some talc-based products from the market. For example, Chanel says that it has removed the talc from its loose face powder, although it is not clear when the new formulation will hit store shelves. Chanel will continue to use talc in other products, however, and claims that its talc is free of asbestos contamination.
Revlon told Reuters that it has removed all talc from its body products but did not say why or when and would not comment on any ongoing litigation.
L-Oreal is currently seeking a replacement for talc but told Reuters that it hasn’t found anything that performs as well as talc. The company says that it not only requires its talc suppliers to certify that the mineral is asbestos-free but also performs in-house tests for asbestos.
“We have not detected any trace of asbestos in any of our raw materials containing more than 20% talcum powder,” a spokesperson said. It is unclear if that means asbestos has been found in raw materials containing less than 20% talc.
Beiersdorf, the manufacturer of Nivea brands, has replaced talc with corn starch in its brand of baby powder.
Worldwide, consumers are expected to buy 139,350 tons of talc in 2020. That’s down by 0.6% from last year.
If you have cancer and have routinely used a talc-based product, you should discuss your situation with an attorney who handles product liability cases.