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Frequently asked questions about asbestos in baby powder

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Over the past few years, thousands of people have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Johnson's Baby Powder. Many regular users of the baby powder have developed ovarian cancer and other types of cancer.

Here, we answer some common questions about asbestos in baby powder:

Woman's lung cancer diagnosis linked to asbestos exposure

Many people already understand that exposure to asbestos can cause victims to develop the deadly cancer mesothelioma. But what about other serious health effects? One woman points to asbestos exposure as the root cause behind her lung cancer diagnosis.

The woman -- who does not live in South Carolina -- and her husband filed a suit over the May 2018 diagnosis. While they believe that repeated and routine exposure to asbestos caused her to develop lung cancer, they do not believe that a single company or manufacturer was responsible. Instead, their suit cites over 40 defendants who allegedly manufactured or sold products containing asbestos.

Where is asbestos exposure likely to occur?

Protecting oneself from asbestos might seem easy enough, but few people realize the truly astounding number of products that still contain this deadly substance. Asbestos exposure can occur at work, in the home or in any number of places because of its still relatively widespread use or leftover remnants from decades past. Here are a few places to watch out for asbestos.

It is true that there are federal regulations that limit how and when asbestos can be used, but that does not mean that it is never used. While workers in certain industries -- including construction and manufacturing -- might be vaguely aware of the issue, it is widespread enough for everyone in South Carolina to understand the dangers. Consider some of the following products that commonly contain the deadly fiber asbestos:

  • Some textiles
  • Cigarette filters
  • Motor vehicle brake linings
  • Patching and spackling products
  • Cement
  • Gardening materials
  • Fireproofing items
  • Ceiling and floor tiles, shingles, home siding and more

Neighbors at risk of asbestos exposure after illegal demolition

Despite the limits the government has placed on the use of asbestos in building supplies, the danger remains. Many older homes and structures in South Carolina were built with asbestos-containing materials in their floors, walls, roofs and other places. As long as the materials are undisturbed, there is less danger. However, when the particles are disturbed, for example during a renovation, everyone around is at risk of asbestos exposure.

A demolition company in another state was scheduled to raze an abandoned house known to be full of asbestos on a residential block. In accordance with state and federal laws, an asbestos abatement contractor attempted numerous times to contact the foreman of the demolition project to urgently warn him to wait until they had prepared the house for a safe demolition. The foreman did not respond to the emails but went ahead with the demolition, sending a cloud of toxic particles into the neighborhood.

Johnson & Johnson allegedly knew about asbestos exposure

Asbestos, a toxic, cancer-causing substance, is well-known to be dangerous to human health. This is not new information to anyone in South Carolina, and yet for decades Johnson & Johnson allegedly knew that their products were contaminated with asbestos, and said nothing. Evidence indicates that the company actively tried to cover up ongoing asbestos exposure suffered by their customers.

Johnson & Johnson uses talc in its popular baby powder product, which many women use on not only their children, but also themselves. Talc has not been totally proven to be safe, but it is often contaminated with asbestos. This is because asbestos is frequently found wherever talc is mined, making contamination a frightening reality. According to one report, completely purifying talc is impossible.

Wife sues manufacturer over husband's mesothelioma death

Contrary to what may be popular belief, asbestos exposure can occur virtually anywhere and at anytime, not just in the construction and manufacturing industries. The health effects of such exposure are tangible and devastating for victims who go on to develop mesothelioma. For some in South Carolina, these terrible health outcomes do not occur until years or even decades after exposure.

An out-of-state woman recently filed a lawsuit against the industrial aluminum company Novelis Corp. In her suit, she blames one of the company's former products for exposing her late husband to asbestos back in the 1950s. The product, Snowdrift, was not originally manufactured by Novelis, but by its predecessor.

Library demolition may cause widespread asbestos exposure

Despite its once prevalent use in construction, most people in South Carolina now understand just how dangerous asbestos is. As such, communities have an understandable right to be concerned when they learn of a potential source of asbestos exposure or contamination. For one community in a different state, there are mounting worries in regard to the demolition of an old library.

Demolition began on the closed library on Dec. 3, 2018, although it was starkly opposed by members of the community. The building contained asbestos in several different areas, including in the floors, roof and fireproofing materials. The original plan was to have a crew carefully remove the asbestos before demolition, but it ended up being condemned back in September, and officials determined it would not be safe for workers to remove the asbestos.

3 common products that may still contain asbestos

People are often surprised to find out that exposure to asbestos is still a significant issue in the United States. It might seem that in the 40+ years since the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 gave the EPA broad authority to regulate asbestos production, the issue should be largely resolved. But exposure to asbestos continues to be a risk, and the cause of serious illness for those with extended or intense exposure to the dangerous substance.

In 2015 the Environmental Working Group Action Fund released a study estimating that up to 15,000 Americans still die every year as a result of illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos. 

Asbestos exposure, mesothelioma more common than you may think

The vast majority of people in South Carolina have likely been exposed to asbestos at some point in their life. While even small amounts of asbestos can be extremely detrimental to human health, most people will not develop mesothelioma as a result of brief, one-off exposures. However, for those who do, the results can be life-altering and devastating.

Because of its once frequent use in construction, homes built prior to the 1980s usually contain at least some asbestos. While those living in these homes might experience minimal exposure, individuals who routinely work with asbestos -- such as in the mining or manufacturing industries -- have much higher rates of developing asbestos-related diseases. Construction workers, firefighters, military personnel and others in related industries also suffer from higher rates of disease.

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