A recent, in-depth investigation into the controversy surrounding talcum powder, asbestos, mesothelioma, and Johnson & Johnson conducted by Reuters turned up troubling information. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was found to have been deferring to the cosmetics industry for decades, letting companies like J & J regulate their own products and potential contamination with harmful asbestos.
Asbestos in Talcum Powder
Talc is a natural mineral and as such it is often found in deposits with other minerals when mined. Asbestos has been heavily regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency since the 1970s when it became clear that it causes mesothelioma, an aggressive, rare, and deadly cancer.
The small fibers of asbestos can enter airways or get into the digestive tract causing irritation and cancer. Several people, mostly women, have come forward in recent years and sued Johnson & Johnson over cases of mesothelioma developing after decades of use of talc-based products, like baby powder. Some women have also developed ovarian cancer.
FDA Defers to Industry over Asbestos in Talc
Johnson & Johnson continues to deny that asbestos is in its products. The FDA held a symposium in Washington D.C. Called the “Asbestos in Talc Symposium,” it brought together participants and experts largely from industry organizations. These were individuals and labs that had done testing for companies like Johnson & Johnson and represented them in lawsuits.
According to Reuters, the FDA turned down several people to participate, including several who had testified against Johnson & Johnson. The investigation dove deeper into the history of asbestos, talc, and the FDA and found that the government agency has been deferring to industry in this matter for nearly 50 years. The FDA continued to allow Johnson & Johnson and other companies regulate their own talc products even after many people and experts came forward to warn that talcum powder is often contaminated with asbestos.
Reuters found documentary evidence that the FDA has repeatedly refused to issue warnings to the public about the risks of using talcum powder. It has not set any safety standards for these products and has consistently downplayed the dangers and risks.
FDA Finally Conducting Independent Talcum Powder Tests
The number of lawsuits being brought against Johnson & Johnson has forced the FDA to take action. Tests released in October that demonstrated some of the baby powder samples contained asbestos prompted a voluntary recall by Johnson & Johnson. Even so the company indicated that it was with an abundance of caution and continued to deny the presence of asbestos.
Johnson & Johnson also quickly followed the FDA’s tests with their own tests of the same products. These tests showed no asbestos, but the company did admit that the results were rushed. Some testing was quickly done in a lab that had not been properly prepared for the work. This has called the results into question.
The FDA is now finally also admitting that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even a trace amount in talcum powder can be harmful. This is a position other groups took years ago, including the World Health Organization.
The ongoing lawsuits over ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestos in talcum powder along with the Reuters report and other information are expected to keep pushing the FDA to do right by consumers. If you have been affected by talcum powder, contact an asbestos lawyer in your area.