Asbestos litigation has been around for nearly a century — but in a new twist, personal care products are becoming the latest targets of these actions. Lawsuits against makers of products containing talcum or magnesium silicate (generally referred to as “talc”) are sprouting up, alleging a link between talc sources and mesothelioma. Companies that make or distribute personal care products that contain talc — including baby powder, foundation, face powder, blush and eye shadow — should understand the evolving litigation landscape and prepare to defend their products if necessary.

In February 2020, a multinational personal care company and a chemical distributor were named in a 27-page Complaint filed in New York State Court, alleging that the plaintiff developed mesothelioma after using personal care products containing talc.1

The Complaint asserts that the plaintiff’s father purchased or acquired personal care talcum products and other talc-based cosmetic products, which the plaintiff then used. The plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2020, which she attributes to the cosmetic and personal care products. The plaintiff seeks $20 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages, as well as $5 million in damages on behalf of the plaintiff’s husband.

The perceived link between personal care products and cancer does not stop at talc-containing products. With the ever-increasing publicity focused on these products and significant monetary awards, these lawsuits will continue. The plaintiffs’ bar has demonstrated that personal care products are a new litigation target regardless of the science. While this type of litigation is relatively new to the personal care industry, the food sector has been defending similar claims for many years. Makers of personal care products may be able to learn from the food industry about how to successfully defend against unsupported allegations.