Asbestos in Talc: Science or Sophistry?

2018 has brought a number of high verdicts in cases alleging cancers are caused by the use of products containing talc contaminated with asbestos. The largest is a Missouri verdict awarding $4.69 billion of which $4.14 was in the form of punitive damages. The size of these verdicts might be explained by the claims from lawyers whose clients were awarded $117 million ($80 million in punitive damages) in a New Jersey court this summer. Those lawyers allege that internal company documents prove the sellers of the products knew of the asbestos contamination, attempted to remove the asbestos and when they were unable to do so, designed a testing protocol that would produce false negatives. The defendants strongly deny these allegations and have stated that numerous independent scientific evaluations confirm the lack of any asbestos in the talc. With over 9,000 talc pending cases, this ongoing dispute is likely to be played out in courts across the country for the foreseeable future.

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