As talcum powder lawsuits and concerns about cancer risks from talc exposure continue to mount, some of the biggest brands in cosmetics, including L’Oreal, Chanel and Revlon, have begun quietly moving away from using talc in their beauty products. According to recent court documents, Chanel removed talc from its loose face powder and discontinued a talc-based body powder due to negative publicity surrounding the mineral, which has been linked to asbestos contamination and cancer. Revlon also reported removing talc from its body products and L’Oreal is currently exploring alternatives to talc for its cosmetics. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer allegedly caused by exposure to talc, contact an experienced talcum powder cancer lawyer today for legal help.
Talc is known for being the softest mineral on earth and it is used in a variety of cosmetics and personal care products, from baby powders and body powders to blushes, pressed powders and eye shadows. Exposure to talc itself does not appear to pose a health risk, although Canadian health officials tentatively concluded in 2018 that talc can cause lung problems if it is inhaled, and ovarian cancer if it is used for feminine hygiene purposes. Rather, most talc concerns revolve around the potential for the mineral to be contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen that has been linked to ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other types of cancer. Thousands of cosmetics and personal care products contain talc, a naturally occurring mineral that, in powder form, is known for its unique ability to absorb moisture, add softness and prevent caking. Perhaps the most widely used talc-based product was Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, which was removed from the market in the United States and Canada just last month.
Nearly 20,000 talcum powder cancer lawsuits have been brought against Johnson & Johnson on behalf of plaintiffs who developed cancer after years of using the company’s talc-based powder products, and it was in 2017 that allegations began to arise that asbestos-tainted talc caused plaintiffs’ cancer diagnoses. Johnson & Johnson faced increased scrutiny after a 2018 Reuters report revealed that the company knew for decades that its talcum powder products sometimes contained traces of asbestos. Despite repeated claims that its powders are safe and free from asbestos contamination, Johnson & Johnson made the decision to remove its talc-based Baby Powder from the market in the United States and Canada last month, after more than 125 years of advertising the product as safe and gentle enough for use on babies.
Johnson & Johnson isn’t the only company facing litigation over its talcum powder products. Other well-known manufacturers of talc-based powders have been named in product liability lawsuits, including Chanel, Revlon and Avon. In a 2018 lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, a California woman alleged that she developed mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the lungs and other organs caused by exposure to asbestos, in part from decades of using Chanel and Johnson & Johnson talcum powders tainted with the carcinogen. According to the court deposition, Chanel was sued for the first time over a talc-based body powder product scented with its signature No. 5 fragrance in 2016, and stopped making the powder in 2017, after more than 90 years of production. “We know that it was a safe product,” said Chanel representative Amy Wyatt in the deposition. But “we determined from public perception to remove it from the market.”
Johnson & Johnson made similar claims in announcing its decision to discontinue its signature Baby Powder product last month. In the company’s press release, issued on May 19, Johnson & Johnson cited declining sales “due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising.”
In addition to discontinuing its talc-based body powder, Chanel also reportedly removed talc from its loose face powder. However, the luxury beauty company continues to use talc in other cosmetic products, including blush, eye shadow and pressed powder, claiming that the talc it uses is “selected according to strict purity criteria, fully complies with current global regulations, and is safe under standard conditions of cosmetic use.” L’Oreal makes similar claims, saying that it requires talc suppliers to certify annually that its talc is asbestos-free and the company also conducts in-house testing to ensure the safety of its products. “We have not detected any trace of asbestos in any of our raw materials containing more than 20% talcum powder,” said a spokeswoman for L’Oreal.
The problem with talc is that it may contain traces of asbestos in its raw form, and if talc-based products are not carefully screened before being sold to consumers, they could contain toxic asbestos fibers. Because asbestos and talc occur close to one another in the earth, some talc can become contaminated with asbestos during the talc mining process. In fact, the FDA recently conducted an analysis of 52 talc-containing cosmetic products and found asbestos in nine of the products, including one bottle of Johnson’s Baby powder and three products sold by the popular teen retail store Claire’s. The agency plans to analyze 50 additional samples this year and is considering establishing an asbestos testing standard to ensure the safety of talc-based cosmetic and personal care products.
As concerns about cancer risks due to asbestos exposure continue to grow, several other companies have also begun moving away from using talc in their products, while still maintaining that talc is safe and denying any safety concerns associated with the mineral. German company Beiersdorf says it switched from talcum powder to cornstarch in its Nivea baby powder back in 2018, and Bausch Health reportedly changed the makeup of its Shower to Shower body powder that same year. A Revlon spokesperson reported removing talc from the company’s body products and L’Oreal says it is searching for an alternative to talc, but has yet to find anything that works as well as the mineral.