A woman diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer has filed a lawsuit against more than 30 cosmetic companies, including well-known and established brands such as Johnson & Johnson, Mary Kay, and Chanel.

The woman filing the lawsuit alleges these brands sold talcum powder products that led to her mesothelioma diagnosis in 2023. The victim, from Massachusetts, filed the lawsuit in the Massachusetts Superior Court for Middlesex County.

The case highlights how many cosmetic brands used talc as an ingredient in skincare and other products – and how those products are being linked to cancer.


How Are Cosmetics Linked to Mesothelioma?

Some cosmetic brands are facing legal issues related to mesothelioma lawsuits, and the culprit is the use of talc. This naturally occurring mineral can absorb moisture, which is a common trait of skincare products.

However, talc forms in the earth’s soil near other minerals, including asbestos, which is the only known cause of the rare cancer mesothelioma. Asbestos is composed of microscopic, sharp fibers that can be easily inhaled or swallowed, causing irritation to cell linings near the lungs or abdominal cavity.

Mining for talc can inadvertently contaminate the pure talc with asbestos since they naturally form near each other. Manufacturing cosmetic products using talc as an ingredient can lead to asbestos exposure for manufacturing workers and consumers. Many cosmetic brands using talc have known about the link between talc and asbestos – and the link between asbestos and mesothelioma – yet continued to make talcum powder cosmetics.

There are fewer than 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma in the U.S. each year, and the prognosis is often poor. People with this cancer begin experiencing symptoms decades after exposure. Treatment can be difficult due to late-stage diagnosis and the aggressive nature of the cancer. Mesothelioma typically forms in the lungs or abdominal cavity but often spreads to other vital organs quickly.  

Most people diagnosed with this cancer only live for around one year after their official diagnosis, which emphasizes the malicious business practices of the companies that continued using talcum powder as an ingredient in cosmetic products.


Which Companies Are in the Mesothelioma Lawsuit?

Mesothelioma lawsuits are common. There were 2,200 legal claims – lawsuits and asbestos trust fund filings – in 2019 alone. However, this specific case is unique due to the number of high-profile cosmetic brands named in the lawsuit.

The 33-page court document names 39 brands as responsible in some way for the victim’s mesothelioma. Johnson & Johnson, one of the companies in the lawsuit, has been at the center of mesothelioma lawsuits related to talc products.

The company’s popular Baby Powder product was made with talc for decades and has been blamed for many cases of mesothelioma. Reuters published an article in 2019 detailing how the company knew the potential risks of using talc yet continued to manufacture and sell its products.

Johnson & Johnson no longer uses talc in Baby Powder – switching to a cornstarch-based powder – but still faces tens of thousands of lawsuits from people with asbestos-caused cancers, including mesothelioma. The company has attempted twice to settle its pending lawsuits and create a trust fund for future claims with a bankruptcy maneuver, but both tries were rejected in court.

Johnson & Johnson is considering a third bankruptcy settlement proposal, but the company remains an “active defendant,” which means people can still file asbestos lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson through the court system.

Other well-known brands named in the Massachusetts lawsuit are L’Oreal, Clinique, Mary Kay, Chanel, Colgate-Palmolive, Maybelline, New Avon, Sanofi and Pfizer.

“The talcum powder products, which were contaminated with tremolite asbestos and/or other amphibole or serpentine asbestos in various percentages by weight, to which (the plaintiff) was exposed were designed, developed, mined, milled manufactured, fabricated, contracted, installed, supplied, distributed, sold, and/or used by the defendant corporations,” the lawsuit reads.

According to the lawsuit, the woman with mesothelioma was exposed to asbestos-contaminated talcum powder through:

  • Her use of talc products
  • The use of talc products by family members
  • Her employment at CVS, which sells cosmetic products, during the 1970s and 1980s

“Plaintiff used the asbestos-contaminated talcum products in an intended, normal, routine, and reasonably foreseeable manner based on the advertising, marketing, and labeling of the asbestos-contaminated talcum products,” the lawsuit reads.

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About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.