Top 5 Talc Stories of 2020

Consumer Goods

2020 will be mostly remembered for the coronavirus pandemic and the bitter, polemic presidential election. But this year has also witnessed headline-making talc stories. Courtesy of, here’s a rehash of The Mesothelioma Center’s top asbestos/talc/mesothelioma news items of the year. 

#1: J & J Discontinues Talc Baby Powder Sales in North America & Pays $100 Million To Settle First 1,000 Lawsuits

In May, Johnson and Johnson (J & J) announced it would no longer sell talc-based baby powder in North American stores. J & J blamed changes in consumer habits and declining sales on the decision. J & J also suggested that misinformation surrounding the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising were other factors. 

J & J faced thousands of talc powder lawsuits. Women who filed claims against J & J allege that using the baby powder for many years in the genital area caused them to develop ovarian cancer. 

In October, J & J announced it would settle 1,000 talc lawsuits for $100 million. Despite the settlement announcement, the company still faces an additional 20,000 claims. 

Meanwhile, over 170 organizations have called for a global ban on J & J talc baby powder. 

J & J continues to insist that its talc-based baby powder is safe and that “any asbestos contamination found in testing was an isolated instance,” to quote

#2: Revlon Sued Over Asbestos-Tainted Talc in Cosmetics

Cosmetic giant, Revlon, was sued by a Maryland couple, seeking $60 million in damages over the plaintiffs’ claim that some of the company’s products were tainted with asbestos. The couple in question are a father and daughter. The former previously worked for Revlon and would provide the latter with Revlon’s cosmetics, including the discontinued Jean Naté Silkening Body Powder. 

The daughter developed mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs (and sometimes other organs). Mesothelioma is associated with the inhalation of asbestos particles. 

Other cosmetic companies have been named defendants in asbestos lawsuits, including the brand, Justice, which markets cosmetic products to girls below 18 years of age. 

Asbestos has been found to contaminate several cosmetic products such as eye shadow. Recent testing by a top asbestos-detecting lab as well as by the FDA reveals that asbestos-contaminated talc is pervasive in the cosmetic industry. Johnson & Johnson brands of cosmetics were also found to be contaminated with asbestos. 

#3: Missouri Court Upholds Talc Verdict For 22 Women

Last month, an appeals court in Missouri upheld a 2018 district court decision that ruled in favor of 22 women who claimed they developed ovarian cancer from J & J talc baby powder. The jury in the district court awarded the 22 women $4.7 billion; the appeals court reduced the amount to $2.1 billion. 

J & J wanted Missouri’s Supreme Court to review the decision but the state’s Supreme Court refused to review it. 

#4: Keytruda: An FDA-Approved Drug For Mesothelioma

In June, the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) was approved by the FDA for metastatic tumors. Although not considered a magic bullet, the drug has proven to be just that in a small number of patients. The drug is appropriate when other treatment options have failed. 

And in October, an immunotherapy combination of Opdivo and Yervoy was approved for first-line treatment of tumors that can’t be removed.

#5: Asbestos Bans Take Decades To Reap Benefits & A Ban In The U.S. Falls Short

Italy banned asbestos three decades ago yet the country is experiencing a peak number of mesothelioma cases. A mesothelioma diagnosis can occur decades after exposure. Thus, any ban that takes effect today would likely not see an immediate reduction of mesothelioma diagnoses.  A House bill that calls for the banning of asbestos in the U.S. stalled unexpectedly in late September.

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