A jury in New Jersey, US, voted that a mesothelioma patient’s disease was caused by asbestos in talcum powder. This is the first time Johnson & Johnson has lost a case alleging that its products contain asbestos.[i]
Most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma have been exposed occupationally to asbestos, often by working in the construction industry. However, a small number of cases are reported in those who have been exposed to asbestos in non-occupational circumstances. The banker, in this case, had reportedly never worked around asbestos. He claimed to have developed mesothelioma after inhaling dust that was generated through his regular use of talc products since 1972, when he was born.
Talc and asbestos are both naturally occurring minerals and tend to be found close together. Studies have suggested that there is a risk that talc may be contaminated with asbestos during mining. The claimant’s lawyers claim that Johnson and Johnson knew about the risk of contamination of its talc products with asbestos as early as the 1960s, but failed to warn consumers. It was decided that Johnson & Johnson was responsible for 70% of the damages, and Imerys, the supplier of its talc, was responsible for 30%. Johnson & Johnson maintains that its baby powder does not contain asbestos, nor does it cause cancer. Johnson & Johnson has been involved with only one other asbestos-related trial, which it won in November[ii].
Johnson & Johnson have also lost several high-profile cases in which it was alleged that talcum powder products cause ovarian cancer, though some decisions have been reversed. We reported on these cases in issues 184 (here) and 205 (here) of BCDN.
[i] Mesothelioma patient awarded $37 million in talcum powder case. Surviving Mesothelioma. https://survivingmesothelioma.com/mesothelioma-patient-awarded-37-million-in-talcum-powder-case/ (Accessed 12 April 2018)
[ii] J&J loses trial over claims linking cancer to asbestos in talc. Reuters Health News. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-johnson-johnson-cancer-lawsuit/jj-loses-trial-over-claims-linking-cancer-to-asbestos-in-talc-idUSKCN1HC2PL (Accessed 12 April 2018)