With Johnson & Johnson already facing thousands of lawsuits alleging their Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products caused ovarian cancer, the company received a striking blow last week that also linked the products to mesothelioma.
A jury ordered the drug company to pay a combined $117 million in damages to a New Jersey man and his family after finding he developed the deadly cancer mesothelioma from inhaling asbestos particles over decades of use of J&J products.
This is the first such award against the drug giant linking their Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products to asbestos and mesothelioma. However, courts have awarded millions to other victims who developed mesothelioma after using similar talc products from other companies.
And, with word spreading of the past risks by consumers and potential legal help for their families, experts think more will now come forward with similar experiences.
The Link Between Talc and Asbestos
Talcum powder, or talc, is a soft rock mineral that is ground up to be used in a variety of consumer and industrial products, including chalk, soap, rubber, drywall, plastics and crayons.
However, its largest use by far since the late 1800s has been in baby powders to reduce skin irritation. While talc powder by itself may be safe for some people, it has been linked to a risk for ovarian cancer in many women who used it long-term for feminine hygiene.
Another risk of talcum powder is the potential for asbestos contamination. Due to their mineral similarities, talcum powder is often found in mines near deposits of a deadly form of asbestos known as tremolite.
If asbestos fibers find their way into talc powder, the mineral becomes dangerous due to the risk of inhalation.
While talc is now inspected for the presence of tremolite asbestos, those who used talc products in the past might have been at risk for asbestos inhalation, and there are still reports of exposure in some types of talc produced today.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive form of cancer that attacks the mesothelium, a thin layer of tissue that surrounds the body’s internal organs. It usually affects the heart, lungs or parts of the abdomen.
One aspect that makes mesothelioma so dangerous is it can take 20 years or more from the time of initial exposure to surface. Therefore, many people who were put at risk don’t monitor for symptoms and don’t receive treatment until the disease has already spread.
Some of the symptoms of mesothelioma include chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath. Again, since these are similar to less-severe conditions, many people don’t identify the disease until it is too late.
Fortunately, mesothelioma is rare, and affects only around 20,000 new people each year. However, with the wide usage of talc products in recent decades, that could increase.
Mesothelioma from Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower
In this case, New Jersey husband Stephen Lanzo claimed he developed mesothelioma from the inhalation of asbestos-contaminated talc after using both Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower for more than 30 years.
He and his lawyer argued that J&J has known about the risk of asbestos contamination in its talc products since the 1950s, but has never warned consumers of the dangers.
A jury agreed, and awarded he and his wife $37 million in compensatory damages, as well as $80 million in punitive damages, which are intended to punish the company for its actions.
In the past, juries around the country have awarded more than $40 million in damages to similar victims who’ve developed mesothelioma after using talcum powder products made by Whitaker, Clark & Daniels and Colgate Palmolive. However, this is the largest to date, and the first against J&J.
New Lawsuits for Those Affected
Lawyers are continuing to file lawsuits against the makers of talcum powder products on behalf of those diagnosed with either ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. And, in the case of mesothelioma, they believe we’ve only scratched the surface of the number of people affected.
Those who regularly used talcum-based products who may have come into contact with asbestos fibers include hairdressers, makeup artists, talc mine workers, factory workers and barbers.
If you or a loved one are diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to speak with a lawyer who can conduct a thorough investigation into your work history to determine if there was a risk for asbestos talc exposure. Your family may be entitled to substantial compensation.
For more on the cancer risks of talc and baby powder products, or to speak directly with a lawyer about your case, contact DrugNews today.
Christensen, J. New Jersey couple awarded $117 million in talcum powder case. CNN. (April 11, 2018). Retrieved from www.cnn.com
Mesothelioma Symptoms & Causes. Mayo Clinic. (December 22, 2017). Retrieved from www.mayoclinic.org
Last summer, the Department of Justice unveiled the details of an ongoing lawsuit and resulting settlement against industrial giant 3M, claiming the company had furnished defective combat earplugs to millions of U.S. troops serving around the world.