Cosmetic Talc

Questions about the safety of cosmetic talc were raised nearly 40 years ago. The concern was historically focused on the toxicity of the talc itself, or trace contaminants – such as asbestos cleavage fragments or trace contamination by tremolite asbestos. Initially, the concerns about any hazard to consumers was dismissed because talc had been mined for decades, and if some engineering controls were used, the workers were generally not harmed. The primary occupational hazard was talcosis, and there was little indication that this disease produced an increased incidence of lung cancer.

Surprisingly, around 2015, a groundswell of claims were made regarding the asbestos content of cosmetic talc, and the initial allegations was that there was an increased risk of mesothelioma in those who used cosmetic talc products. Later, these concerns were broadened to include ovarian cancer. Since 2015, billions of dollars of awards were distributed by the American court system as a result of talc-related litigation.

natural organic cosmetics for baby with chamomile on white background top view

While most toxicologists believe that asbestos-related health hazards associated with the use of cosmetic talc are non-existent, the intensity of this litigation continues to increase. Due to Johnson & Johnson’s 2020 decision to no longer sell cosmetic talc products, some believe that an avalanche of new scientific research will be needed to assess the exposure of the various historical manufacturers and distributors.

Given that our staff has more than 30 published papers on asbestos, and has been advising clients regarding how to incorporate more science into the asbestos litigation, we believe that we are well prepared to assist the dozens or hundreds of firms that will be impacted by the litigation  which is unfolding in a significant manner.

We believe that our recent presentation at the 2020 DRI regarding talc litigation and science might be of interest and is available upon request.      

Key Projects

  • 2019: Organized a conference on the scientific aspects of the talc litigation in conjunction with the DRI and the Inter Soc of Regulatory Tox and Pharm (ISRTP).   Nearly 200 persons participated.    Washington, DC
  • Evaluated claims regarding talc used in barbershops. Due to allegations regarding the hazards of using cosmetic talc in barbershops, we evaluated the maximum plausible airborne concentrations that might have occurred and the duration.  At this time, not retained as experts (Summer of 2020).
  • Health hazards posed by human exposure to cosmetic talc: Was retained by a law firm to evaluate a personal injury claim that exposure to cosmetic talc was responsible for causing mesothelioma in a relatively young woman.  Exposures were alleged to be due to using it as an antiperspirant and while powdering her infants while changing diapers (mid-2018).
  • Claims regarding exposure to industrial talc. Was retained by a tire maker who had experienced allegations regarding exposure to industrial talc and mesothelioma (late 2018).
  • Evaluated the alleged risks associated with exposure to talc or talcum powders. In about 2014, a new generation of claims about the hazards posed by talc with respect to causing ovarian cancer and mesothelioma were made.  We began to evaluate the scientific legitimacy of these claims at that time.  Several papers are in progress which describes our current views (spring of 2016).
  • Assessing the hazards posed by talc with respect to ovarian cancer. Was retained by a pharmaceutical firm to assess the plausible hazard associated with the use of baby powder containing talc and the risk of ovarian cancer (fall 2014;-spring 2018).
  • Assessment of lead and cadmium in talc and other baby products (California). In 2000-2002, conducted a risk assessment that evaluated the likelihood that trace amounts of lead and cadmium in talc and zinc oxide ointment in baby products might penetrate the skin and produce an absorbed dose in excess of the California Proposition 65 “safe harbor” concentration.
  • Assessed the loss of silicon from drug injection devices due to historical use of talc. In 2001, our team examined silica exposures in drug injection devices. For a number of years, up to the present, some manufacturers of automatic drug injection devices used talc as a lubricant or coating on the inside of the device.  Concerns were raised about the possible hazards posed by the silica in the talc. The amount of talc released by the device during various injections was measured and the health risks were evaluated.

Publications

  • Paustenbach, D. and colleagues. A review of the key scientific aspects of the current litigation involving the hazards of talc in baby powder and antiperspirant powder to children and adults. Journal to be determined. (2020)
 

Presentations

 
  • 2019. Presented a paper at the Conference on Scientific and Legal aspects of the talc litigation entitled “Areas of scientific disagreement regarding within the talc cases:  Do they have merit?”  (Washington, DC).
  • 2019 (September 19). Estimating exposure to talc due to use in cosmetics: Is it really as complicated as court cases seem to indicate?  Presentation at joint ISRTP and DRI scientific seminar on talc litigation. Sept. 19 and 20. Washington, DC.
  • 2017. Perineal Use of Cosmetic Talc as a Risk Factor for Ovarian Cancer: A Weight-of-Evidence Evaluation. Abstract # 1288. Poster Presentation at Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting, March 12-16, 2017, Baltimore, MD.
  • 2017. Ten Fallacies Regarding the Science of Plaintiff’s Cases involving Cosmetic Talc. Presentation at the Defense Asbestos Litigation Seminar Conference. Sept. 7, 2017. Austin, TX.
  • 2016. A Very Brief Historical Overview on The Toxicity of Talc. Presentation at the Defense Research Institute Annual Meeting. November 9, 2016. New Orleans, LA.
 

Abstracts

 
  • Finley, B.L., E.D. Donovan, M. Kovochich, D.J. Paustenbach and A.M. Urban. 2017. Perineal Use of Cosmetic Talc as a Risk Factor for Ovarian Cancer: A Weight-of-Evidence Evaluation. Abstract #1288.  Poster Presentation at Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting, March 12-16, 2017, Baltimore, MD.