In this podcast, John Maher talks with Paul Kelley from Satterley & Kelley. They talk about asbestos in talc, and they explain how this can lead to mesothelioma in some cases.
John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Paul Kelley. Paul is a partner with the Kentucky personal injury law firm Satterley & Kelley, which has over 30 years of collective experience in handling cases involving mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. Today, we’re talking about talc, asbestos, and mesothelioma. Welcome, Paul.
Paul Kelley: Good morning, John. How are you?
What Is Talc? Where Does Talc Come From?
John: Good, thanks. So Paul, what is talc, and where does it come from?
Paul: Well, talc is a broad topic. Most commonly, talc that our listeners would probably be familiar with is in things like Johnson’s Baby Powder and similarly other talcum powder products, but talc is used in a lot of stuff. Talc historically has been used in industrial settings. It’s been used in paint products. It’s been used in tile manufacturing. It’s been used in a wide variety of hygiene products from deodorants, the foot powders, of course, baby powders, and things like that. And so people historically have probably been exposed to a lot of talc in a lot of different ways throughout the course of their life.
You ask, well, where does talc come from? Talc is a naturally occurring product. It’s mined, and there are talc deposits all throughout the world. In the United States, there have been talc deposits in Vermont, New York, Montana, California, Arizona, down some of the southern states, Georgia and Alabama, and all throughout the country, but it’s a naturally occurring product.
And so what happens is companies will have talc mines, and they mine the talc. And they essentially rip it out of the earth using earth-moving equipment, and the talc comes out in a rock form. And they process it usually to make it into a smaller, more manageable substance, and then they sell it to manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson that further refine it and then put it into their talcum powder.
Or perhaps they’ll sell it to a paint manufacturer that is going to put it into an industrial paint, and they’ll process it and mix it into their paint. Or perhaps they’ll sell it to a tile manufacturer, and the tile manufacturer will mix it with other ingredients to form tile. But essentially, talc is something that grows in the ground. We wouldn’t have anything to do with it if we didn’t pull it out and mine it and use it to make commercial products with.
Talc and Asbestos Tile
John: Now, I’ve heard of asbestos tile before. Is that what we think of when we say asbestos tile? It’s a tile that contains talc, or is there another way that asbestos could be incorporated into tile products as well?
Paul: Oh no, it’s the talc.
Paul: It’s absolutely the talc. There’s been quite a few cases over the years involving talc suppliers that provide their talc to tile manufacturers, and they put massive amounts of talc that they mix with other products. And they make floor tiles, ceiling tiles, wall tiles, but when you hear asbestos-containing tile, it’s the talc.
Other Products That Contain Talc
John: Okay. And are there other products that you didn’t mention that would contain talc as well?
Paul: I think the main ones that, again, we see are the tile and the cosmetic talc products and industrial paints. I mean, there could be a variety of products. For example, I think I’ve talked to you in the past about something called phenolic molding compounds, and we discovered in the case years ago that when they took the other type of asbestos out of phenolic molding compounds, they replaced it with talc. And some of that talc contained asbestos.
And so just to educate folks, phenolic molding compounds were used to make a lot of plastic products, finished plastic products from circuit breakers to automotive parts, I mean, all kinds of automotive parts from things that go in people’s engines to things that go in the actual car itself, like the steering wheel and console and things like that. But talc has been used in those kinds of products over the years.
Talc has been used kind of generically in some molding facilities. It doesn’t get incorporated into a product per se, but if a plant is molding a product or it’s a die cast molding operation, and so just making up whatever they’re making, they will frequently use talc to put in the mold, so when the product comes out, it doesn’t stick to the metal that’s in the mold itself. And so they use talc to dust the mold, and so that was common in manufacturing plants all throughout the country. Talc would be used to dust the molds, and then people who were making all kinds of die cast products would be exposed to talc in that way. And so wasn’t a part of a product per se, but it was the actual talc itself that people were exposed to. And that happened in manufacturing plants all across the United States.
Talc Can Contain Asbestos
John: Okay. Is talc a form of asbestos, or does it contain asbestos? How is asbestos related to talc?
Paul: So the talc itself is not asbestos. There is asbestos in the talc. I know that’s kind of a weird statement, but there is talc certainly that has been mined in the United States that doesn’t contain asbestos. Asbestos is similar to talc in that it also is a naturally occurring product. And so talc is mined. Asbestos is mined. Frequently, asbestos grows in the same areas where talc grows, and so when the talc is mined, lots of times, it’s mined in areas where asbestos is also present. And so it grows with the talc, and it is contained within the talc. And the talc itself will essentially … During that whole milling process and the procedures that they perform in order to make it usable by industry, it essentially becomes an asbestos-containing product.
Does Asbestos in Talc Cause Mesothelioma?
John: Right, okay. So does the type of asbestos that’s contained in talc cause mesothelioma, and what’s the evidence for that?
Paul: Oh, absolutely. So there have been numerous studies conducted, I mean, both historically going back to the 1960s and ’70s and certainly in the last 5 or 10 years that have linked the type of asbestos that is typically associated with talc to causing mesothelioma. For anybody that’s interested, typically, we’ll see something called tremolite asbestos or anthophyllite asbestos and then sometimes chrysotile asbestos.
There are six different fiber types of asbestos that we know about. Typically, chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite are what we call the commercial types of asbestos, so they were intended to be in a product. So we talked about brake linings before, and manufacturers intended to put chrysotile asbestos into brake linings. We’ve talked about phenolic molding compounds, and those manufacturers intended to put crocidolite or chrysotile asbestos into their product. And so they were what was called commercial products.
Anthophyllite and tremolite are products that have been used commercially, but typically speaking, they weren’t intended to be commercial products. And those are the types of asbestos that we typically see associated with talc that winds up in things like cosmetic talcum powder products or winds up in things like ceiling tile and floor tile. And they are forms of amphibole asbestos. And there have been studies, I mean, going back decades that have attributed the cause of mesothelioma to all forms of amphibole asbestos, including anthophyllite, including tremolite, and then certainly, there have been studies more recently directly associated with talc and those fiber types and have most definitely attributed the cause of mesotheliomas to the fiber types specifically associated with the talc.
What Products Contain Talc?
John: Okay. And what products containing talc have now been discontinued, and what products might still contain talc?
Paul: Well, that’s interesting. A lot of products still contain talc. Very few things have been discontinued. Interestingly enough, within the last two years, Johnson & Johnson stopped selling baby powder with talc in the United States, and then I think within the last six months, Johnson & Johnson has stopped selling baby powder with talc anywhere in the world.
But you’re going to find all kinds of talcum powder products that still contain asbestos-containing talc. I mean, there are companies that make foot powders and other types of baby powders, other type of fragrance powders and things like that, and a lot of those companies have not taken their products off the market yet. And folks can still buy them today.
We always tell people that if you have a newborn child … and of course, Johnson’s baby powder has dominated the market in that industry for decades. Corn starch … You want to use corn starch. Corn starch is not talc, but it has been used in baby powders and cosmetic powders. It is a much safer alternative. It is not known to contain asbestos or any type of carcinogen, but there’s still cosmetic powders on the market today that contain asbestos.
Tile and paints … We probably don’t see a lot of those products anymore with asbestos, but to the extent that companies are still mining their talc from places that have historically been known to have asbestos deposits, then it’s still possible the paints and tiles, again, these plastic products, things of that nature, could still contain asbestos today.
A Lot of Tile Contained Asbestos Into the 2000s
John: Right, and then there’s a lot of those products that are just already installed, like tile floors and things like that everywhere. So yeah, anytime that you rip up a floor or something like that, you really need to have somebody come in and test it, make sure that it doesn’t contain asbestos, right?
Paul: Absolutely. It’s a huge risk. I mean, we’re aware of a company here in Kentucky, Florida Tile, that manufactured tile that contain asbestos talc until into the 2000s. So I mean, it’s not just old, old, old houses that contain asbestos or old facilities that contain asbestos tile.
I mean, it could literally be someplace that was built within the last 20 years. So if somebody was conducting a major renovation of their home or of their office, they could very easily come into contact with asbestos-containing talc and think, “Oh, well, yeah, I built this in 2001, nothing to worry about.” And that may, in fact, be untrue. So it’s always important to have those kinds of things tested before you go in and rip it up and tear it out and potentially expose yourself.
The finished tile itself probably isn’t going to cause anybody to get exposure, but once you start breaking it up, cracking it, smashing it, I mean, there’s a potential for high level of exposure. And certainly, nobody who’s doing that in their home or your typical office building, they’re not being protected by any sophisticated ventilation system. They certainly don’t have HEPA filters or vacuums or really any safeguards whatsoever. And the little dust masks that you go get at Home Depot, that doesn’t do it. That’s not going to protect you from any exposure.
Contact Satterley & Kelley About Asbestos Exposures
John: All right, that’s good to keep in mind. All right, thanks very much for speaking with me today, Paul. I appreciate it.
Paul: No problem, John. Thank you.
John: And for more information about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, visit the law firm of Satterley & Kelley at satterleylaw.com or call 855-385-9532.