According to reports, the vast majority of confirmed mesothelioma cases are in men. As you may know, mesothelioma, a life-ending form of cancer, is most commonly found in the lungs and chest. Occasionally, it appears in the brain, the stomach, and the sex organs of men and women. Most experts agree that the primary cause of mesothelioma in the United States comes from asbestos exposures. In fact, it may be the sole cause.
Men are believed to have the highest rates of mesothelioma because asbestos was used so prevalently in the industrial workplace in the United States from the early 1900s until the mid-1980s. Asbestos was a very good heat insulator and was used in a host of products. The list is as long as you can imagine, but included paint, shingles, insulation for homes, sprayed insulation for ovens, concrete, work gloves, face masks, and even Kent cigarette filters. The exposure-to-disease time has been determined to be as much as 60 years, meaning that once a person ingested asbestos fibers, they may not develop mesothelioma until 60 years later.
Despite the predominant disease rates among men, some women are also diagnosed with the disease. Determining the source of their exposure is not always easy. In some of the cases lawyers in our firm have reviewed, we have even looked at second-hand exposure possibilities. These would occur when men in the family would bring home their dusty clothes and the wife would be exposed to the fibers on the clothes.
Recently, however, scientists have begun to unlock the mystery of sources of the disease in women. Asbestos in talcum powder, which was found in baby powder and women’s makeup, has been determined to be a cause of mesothelioma in women. It is also believed to be a causative factor in other diseases in women, including ovarian carcinomas and gynecological tumors.
Ronald E. Gordon, Sean Fitzgerald, and James Millette recently conducted an extensive study in this area, which confirms the growing body of research in this area. These three scientists have published their findings in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. They concluded in their study that: “Our findings indicate that history talcum powder exposure is a causative factor in the development of mesotheliomas and possibly lung cancer in women.” The authors were able to specifically identify the type of asbestos in the talcum powder discussed, which they were able to trace the source of the asbestos in the talcum powder back to the mine from which it originated. They were also able to find this form of asbestos in a woman known to have used the brand of talcum powder they were testing and who died from mesothelioma.
Asbestos exposure among industrial workers has been greatly reduced since the mid-1980s, when the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) required that the product be eliminated, that warnings be posted in all work areas known to have or use asbestos, and that appropriate protective equipment be worn to avoid exposure to dangerous fibers. Unfortunately, women were not afforded this same protection, since it now appears that asbestos continued to be included in some talcum powders, face powders and makeup. The article did not indicate whether it was possible to determine if the talcum powder our wives and daughters may be using includes asbestos, nor did it name the type of talcum powder being tested.
The American Cancer Society (at www.cancer.org) also discusses this identified carcinogen, but it does not provide any guidance on how one may determine if the products he or she is using include asbestos. Hopefully, more information will become available as further research is done. Until then, women should be careful about using products that include talcum products. If you need more information on this subject, contact Ben Locklar, a lawyer in our firm who handles nursing home claims, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com.
Source: R. Gordon, S. Fitzgerald, J. Millette, Asbestos in Commercial Cosmetic Talcum Powder as a Cause of Mesothelioma in Women, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, vol. 20-4 at 318 (2014).
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