Through the years, most adults have seen or heard multiple news stories discussing the dangers associated with exposure to asbestos, including mesothelioma and asbestosis. Older Americans often remember ground-breaking litigation that finally started holding large companies accountable for recklessly harming unsuspecting victims.
When thinking about the historical uses for asbestos, insulation used in homes and buildings is probably the product that most often comes to mind. However, asbestos has also been used in ways you may never have thought about – and unfortunately, some of these surprising products have been found to contain asbestos as recently as 2019. We’ll discuss a few examples below.
What products have contained asbestos in the past?
Cigarette filters: In the early 1950s, Lorillard Tobacco Company introduced a special cigarette filter on Kent cigarettes. The filter was produced by Hollinsworth and Vose, a company that produces a variety of materials. The “Micronite” filter was produced at a time when Americans were becoming more fearful of the dangers associated with smoking unfiltered cigarettes. Lorillard billed the filters as “the greatest health protection in cigarette history.”
Unfortunately, the filters contained a dangerous form of asbestos. Over an approximate time period of five years, until the time the filter design was changed, it is estimated that 13 billion of the Kent cigarettes were smoked. The online newspaper “News & Record” reported in November 2013 that numerous lawsuits by mesothelioma victims were still pending against both Lorillard and Hollinsworth and Vose.
Not only have lawsuits been filed by victims who smoked the Kent cigarettes, but also by employees who worked at the manufacturing plants and were exposed to the asbestos in the product.
Talcum Powder (and other products using talc): Talc is a naturally occurring mineral used in many consumer products, such as baby powder and cosmetics. Talc deposits are sometimes located in close proximity to asbestos, which is also a naturally occurring mineral. As a result, prior to the 1970s, talc was sometimes contaminated by asbestos fibers, creating a potential health hazard.
Fortunately, testing is now required by the US Food and Drug Administration to ensure that talc used in consumer products is free of asbestos. But even these measures don’t prevent all asbestos from making it onto the shelves. In fact, in 2019, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled Johnson’s Baby Powder after it tested positive for asbestos.
Hair Dryers: Although hair dryers no longer contain asbestos, there was a time when they did. In fact, numerous manufacturers of both hand-held and hood-style hair dryers used asbestos to protect internal components from heat and to help prevent fires.
While intermittent exposure to consumers might not reach the level of occupational exposure, any past exposure to asbestos must be carefully considered. Moreover, hairdressers and others in the beauty industry faced an occupational level of exposure.
What products still contain asbestos?
Fortunately, many dangerous uses of asbestos have been prohibited in the interest of public health. But as we’ve already mentioned, that does not mean that every product on store shelves is safe from asbestos. Even within the last few years, products that still contain asbestos have made headlines.
One example is asbestos in makeup products and other cosmetics. In a study released in 2020, the FDA tested 52 cosmetic products (including children’s makeup) containing talc and found that just over 17% of them also contained asbestos.
A Note of Warning
Because it can sometimes take many years for mesothelioma to develop after one is exposed to asbestos, those who used the dangerous products many years ago can still experience adverse health effects.
Call with Questions
If you or a loved one has health problems related to exposure to asbestos, please feel free to call us with your questions. The mesothelioma lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield have experience investigating mesothelioma and asbestosis cases, and in seeking justice for employees and others who have wrongfully been exposed to the dangerous effects of asbestos. We believe that society can be made safe for everyone only when wrongdoers are held accountable for their actions. Even if you are not sure if you have suffered harm to your health, but have questions, we are happy to help.
This article was updated for accuracy in February 2022.