For the first time in nearly 50 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is weighing testing standards for asbestos in talc-based cosmetics, like Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby powder, which has been the subject of thousands of lawsuits that claim the company’s talcum powder is contaminated with asbestos and other harmful particles that caused consumers to develop ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
The announcement came last month after the FDA held a public forum to discuss and obtain scientific information on testing for asbestos in talc-based cosmetics. During the meeting, nearly two dozen public health officials and individuals representing consumers who developed cancer after extended use of talcum powder products urged the FDA to bolster its requirements to ensure consistency in testing talc-based products for asbestos and other harmful particles.
The public forum featured speakers from the National Women’s Health Network, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, the National Center for Health Research, and the Environmental Working Group.
Also, among the presenters was Beasley Allen lawyer Leigh O’Dell, who serves as the co-lead counsel representing Plaintiffs in the federal ovarian cancer multidistrict litigation (MDL); and two Beasley Allen clients, Marvin Salter, whose mother, Jacqueline Fox, died from ovarian cancer after decades of using talcum powder, and Deborah Giannecchini, who used Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene for more than 40 years before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 59.
Leigh implored agency officials to update testing protocols on talc-containing cosmetics to utilize transmission electron microscopy and other more accurate and sensitive tests that can better detect microscopic asbestos fibers in cosmetic talc as well as similar carcinogens. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, but fibrous talc “is a deleterious, cancer-causing elongated mineral that should be included in all testing protocols.”
Johnson & Johnson has long defended its talc, alleging it is safe for consumers despite evidence that the company knew for decades that its talc could become contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos. In October, Johnson & Johnson issued a recall of some of its baby powder after FDA testing revealed traces of asbestos in some bottles of Johnson’s Baby Powder.
The FDA said it will consider the concerns raised by Leigh and the others who spoke or provided input during the public forum before making any formal decisions. A final report is expected from the FDA later this year.
This story appears in the March 2020 issue of The Jere Beasley Report. For more like this, visit the Report online and subscribe.