Mesothelioma is a rare but frightening form of lung cancer. It occurs when cells in the mesothelium – the thin protective membrane surrounding the lungs – begin to mutate and grow into a malignant tumor. Until recently, doctors and researchers thought that mesothelioma had only one cause – asbestos exposure.
Basically, when inhaled through the nose or mouth, asbestos has a tendency to travel through the lungs and become embedded in the lungs’ lining (the mesothelium). This often results in asbestosis, in which case scar tissue forms on the mesothelium, causing medical complications but not cancer. However, asbestosis is, unfortunately, not the only problem associated with inhaling asbestos.
In some cases asbestos inhalation – be it due to occupational exposure or environmental exposure – results in mesothelioma. This aggressive form of cancer is difficult to operate on and has a very high mortality rate. Because it often goes undiagnosed for so long and because it is so deadly, physicians have been thankful, thus far, to note that asbestos exposure seems to be the only known cause for mesothelioma.
However, a recent case has shown that there may be more causes for mesothelioma than environmental or occupational exposure to asbestos. In fact, as one unfortunate woman found, there could be asbestos fibers in your talcum powder.
A Case of Mesothelioma “Without” Asbestos
When a woman was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, her doctors wanted to know where and how she could have been exposed to asbestos. She had never worked in an occupation that would have exposed her to it. She didn’t spend any significant amount of time in shipyards, and there was no asbestos found in the gravel on the roads she drove on or in the insulation of her home. How, then, could she have developed mesothelioma without ever inhaling any asbestos?
Well, there actually was a source of asbestos in her environment every day that the woman had never known about: her talcum powder. For as long as she could remember, she reported having used the same brand of powder, but she’d never considered it to be a problem or a health risk of any kind. Why would she? Why would any cosmetics or skincare company knowingly put a powder on store shelves that contained asbestos?
Study Proved Presence of Asbestos in Talcum Powder
Well, a study was performed on the asbestos found in the woman’s lung tissue, as well as on the talcum powder brand she’d been using. Three different laboratories tested the physical characteristics of the asbestos found in the woman’s lungs against the talcum powder she’d been using. At the same time, they also tested the likelihood of inhaling the talcum powder in normal use.
Not only did they find that the powder in question had measurable amounts of asbestos in it, matching the fibers in the woman’s lungs, but they also determined that it was entirely possible to inhale the powder through the nose while applying it. Furthermore, all 50 samples of powder used in the study showed the presence of asbestos powder.
The evidence is overwhelming. This poor woman spent years inhaling asbestos while using a product that had no indication of being hazardous to her health. This woman’s case and this study bring a major carcinogen to light and could help many other people in the future.
Unfortunately, according to findings from a study performed in 1976, the manufacturer of the talcum powder in question has been knowingly making talcum powder, baby powder, and face powder containing asbestos for decades. They have not changed their source of powder or sought to eliminate asbestos from it. This leads many to question the safety of a number of cosmetics, as exposure to them could lead to mesothelioma, which so often leads to death.