Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

Asbestos Mesothelioma Lawsuit Currently Underway in New Jersey

February 20, 2018

New Brunswick, NJ: Jurors at an asbestos lawsuit currently underway in New Jersey have heard that an expert witness for the plaintiff may not have considered all statistical and reported evidence in his analysis which led him to believe that talcum powder manufactured by co-defendant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) does currently, or did at one time contain asbestos.

The plaintiff in the asbestos mesothelioma lawsuit is identified as Stephen Lanzo III, who claims that a diagnosis of asbestos mesothelioma can be traced back to talcum powder the plaintiff's mother used on her son as a child. Mesothelioma, a form of asbestos cancer, is generally associated with asbestos exposure and is usually fatal. Additionally, exposure can be traced back decades, with ingested or inhaled asbestos fibers capable of lying dormant for upwards of 30 years before finally emerging as the deadly mesothelioma.

Was it in the talcum powder, or in the insulation?

Talcum powder, historically marketed as baby powder, has been one of J&J's heritage products for decades. Used on babies to help ward against dampness that can contribute to diaper rash, the powder has also been used historically by women and men as part of hygienic routines. According to Court documents, the plaintiff's legal team asserted that J&J and their partners knew about the potential for asbestos in talc early on, but rather than changing the formulation by using a safer product as a base (rather than talc), the defendants colluded to reference asbestos as something else, in order to avoid any association with asbestos-related disease, or so it is alleged.

Legal teams for the defendants countered with an alleged lack of direct evidence that the plaintiff had ever used a product that contained asbestos. The defense also asserted that Lanzo may have been exposed either through a former residence or his attendance at various schools - all referenced structures having been subjected to asbestos abatement undertakings in recent years.

An expert witness for the plaintiff, identified as Dr. James Webber, is a noted environmental consultant. Webber had previously testified that after reviewing test data, he had concluded that asbestos could be found in both the source talc, and the finished products marketed by J&J and their partners.

What did the studies really say?

Under cross examination last week, Webber admitted that he could not recall seeing particular studies from the 1970s era brought forward by the defense that showed no asbestos in talc used by J&J to manufacture its talcum powder. Defense attorneys noted that reports to which they referenced were prepared by Walter McCrone Associates. Webber responded that while he could not recall reading reports from McCrone that referenced the presence of asbestos, he did recall analyzing reports from the noted chemist (Walter McCrone b.1916 d.2002) that did, indeed reference a finding of asbestos in talc used by J&J in their products.

It was alleged in opening arguments by the plaintiff legal team that Cyprus Amax Minerals Co., a co-defendant in the litigation and a predecessor to co-defendant Imerys Talc America Inc., had identified asbestos in talcum powder manufactured by J&J in 1975.

The trial continues. The asbestos cancer lawsuit is Lanzo et al. v. Cyprus Amax Minerals Co. et al., Case No. L-7385-16, in the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey, County of Middlesex.