According to the complaint for this class action, Johnson & Johnson, Inc., Valeant Pharmaceuticals, LLC, and Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. have claimed for years that their talcum products don’t contain any asbestos or asbestiform fibers. The complaint alleges that this is false, and brings suit under California laws, including its Proposition 65, which says that “businesses must provide persons with a ‘clear and reasonable warning’ before exposing individuals to chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer.”
The class for this action is all persons who bought the talcum products at issue in California between July 18, 2015 and the date of judgment or preliminary approval of a settlement in this case.
The products at issue in this case are the defendants’ baby powder and Shower to Shower talcum products.
Talc is an inorganic material, a hydrous magnesium silicate, that is obtained by mining. The problem, the complaint says, is that “the deposits in the earth that are associated with talc are also associated with asbestos.” Asbestos refers to six magnesium silicate minerals, including tremolite, anthophyllite, and chrysotile.
According to the complaint, “the United States Geological [S]urvey on Commercial Talc production in 1965, as well as those dating back to the 1800s, note the presence of tremolite, anthophyllite and chrysotile commonly among those minerals found within talc deposits.” A good part of the complaint is made up of a historical review of knowledge and warnings about carcinogens in talc.
The complaint alleges that the companies, along with an entity called the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association (CTFA), made false statements for decades about the safety of the talcum products. The complaint quotes a December 2018 report from Reuters that says that the companies were investigating the existence of tremolite in their talcum products at least by 1967 and 1969.
Why did the companies insist that their products did not contain carcinogenic materials? The complaint alleges that the companies used methods that did not give accurate information. For example, they tested only small samples, even though they knew that contamination “was not uniformly distributed” and they “failed to inform the FDA that they were limiting their testing of talc to only one type of asbestos fiber…”
Also, the complaint says, the industry did not use the more sensitive TEM-SAED testing method but one called J4-1 that was not sensitive enough. According to the complaint, CFTA and the companies “knew that the J4-1 method would not reveal the true level of asbestos in the talc that reached consumers. In fact, the first ‘round robin’ tests, which analyzed a ‘CFTA Tremolite-Spiked Talc,’ resulted in 6 out of 7 participating laboratories failing to detect the tremolite.”
The complaint says that instead of promoting the products as “asbestos-free,” the companies should have been placing Proposition 65 warnings on them.