A state jury in New York ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $325M verdict to Donna Olson and her husband who claim its talcum powder caused her to develop mesothelioma.
May 22, 2019, A New York jury slammed Johnson & Johnson with a $325M verdict in favor of Donna Olson, a woman diagnosed in 2016 with mesothelioma. She underwent aggressive surgery as part of her treatment to remove her diseased lung. Olson testified that she regularly used Johnson’s Baby Powder for years before her mesothelioma diagnosis.
Olson’ lawyer showed the evidence that Johnson & Johnson knew that baby powder contained asbestos. But in place of switching from talc to cornstarch or warning consumers, Johnson & Johnson changed its tests to a method that didn’t detect asbestos and then misled regulators with results from the new tests.
The jury concluded that the regular use of J&J baby powder over many years caused Olson to develop mesothelioma, an aggressive and rare kind of lung cancer caused by breathing asbestos. The jury then ordered J&J to pay Donna Olson and her husband $25M verdict in compensatory damages and $300M in punitive damages to punish defendants for harmful behavior.
Company spokeswoman Kim Montagnino told Bloomberg that J&J would appeal. She said,
“This trial suffered significant legal and evidentiary errors - one of the most egregious being the demonstrably false testimony from the plaintiff’s central expert.”
Does the Talcum Powder Contain Asbestos?
According to the reports, A Reuters examination of thousands of documents released by the company shows that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos. Company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors, and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.
According to The New York Times, The FDA last tested commercial products that contain talc for asbestos back in 2010 and found no trace elements. However, private experts on behalf of lawyers for plaintiffs have done independent tests and did detect asbestos in the talc products.
The FDA does not test cosmetics for safety. Except for color additives, neither makeup nor any of its ingredients require the agency’s approval. The agency says it takes the possible presence of asbestos in cosmetics very seriously, but that manufacturers and marketers are responsible for their safety.
How Does Talcum Powder Cause Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma, which occurs when tumors grow in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart, is mainly caused by asbestos exposure. Since contamination of talcum powder with the presence of asbestos is known to exist, then the exposure to it could be the cause of the asbestos illness known as mesothelioma.
Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer, and when someone inhales the airborne fibers, the fibers may become lodged in the body and years later form tumors inside the linings of the organs explained above. Since talcum powder is very light, it is reasonable to breathe in the particles when they become airborne.