We have written on numerous occasions about the association between talc and ovarian cancer. This month another problem relating to talc use will be discussed. As we have stated, talc is a naturally occurring mineral consisting of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen that is widely used in the manufacturing processes of a vast number of industries. Talc is found in two forms – one containing asbestos fibers and the other without asbestos. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Cancer Society acknowledge health and safety concerns relating to exposure to both forms of talc, especially in the occupational setting. A recent medical study presented at the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress highlighted talcosis as one of the most serious health hazards associated with occupational exposure to talc.
Talcosis is a specific type of the interstitial lung disease known as pneumoconiosis. It is caused by repeated inhalation of talc dust. The disease is characterized by chronic and often progressive hardening or scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs and can manifest itself as a restrictive lung disease (preventing the lungs from fully expanding and filling with air when breathing in), obstructive lung disease (making it hard to exhale all the air in the lungs), or a combination of both.
Early warning signs of talcosis include shortness of breath, especially during increased activity or physical exertion, and chronic cough. As the disease progresses, the tissue surrounding the lung’s air sacs and air passages become increasingly more thick and stiff, thereby making breathing more and more difficult, which can seriously impair a worker’s ability to continue working and their quality of life. With continued exposure to talc dust, talcosis can develop into a number of serious life-threatening conditions, including progressive respiratory failure or heart failure.
Industries that use talc in their manufacturing process include: ceramic, paper, leather, plastics, rubber, paint, cosmetics, food processing, construction, and talc mining. Due to their continuous, long-term exposure to talc dust, workers in these industries are most at risk to develop talcosis. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Labor have warned of the danger caused by long-term exposure to talc in the workplace.
Despite government acknowledgement and warnings of talc’s danger in the workplace, scientific studies conducted by leading pulmonologists have found an insufficient awareness and a general lack of proactive safety measures being taken in most industries that use talc in their manufacturing process. These studies found the occupational talc exposure situation to be urgent and prevailed on industry leaders to take immediate action to become better informed of the dangers caused by prolonged talc exposure and to immediately institute adequate safety measures to protect their workers.
Lawyers in our firm are investigating cases where a person was exposed to talc or other harmful agents or chemicals in the workplace and, as a result, developed a serious lung injury or disease, including talcosis If you have any questions about talcosis or any other occupational lung disease, contact Chris Boutwell or Ryan Kral, lawyers in our Toxic Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at ChrisBoutwell@beasleyallen.com or at RyanKral@beasleyallen.com.
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