WHO classifies talc as a potential carcinogen

WHO classifies talc as a potential carcinogen
WHO classifies talc as a potential carcinogen

Talc was classified as Probably carcinogenic by the World Health Organization’s cancer agency (WHO), which has also classified acrylonitrile, a compound used in the production of polymers, as carcinogenic. Experts from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), meeting in Lyon (France), published their findings on Friday in the journal The Lancet Oncology.

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Talc, a natural mineral mined in many regions of the world, is “probably carcinogenic” to humans, from a combination of partial studies in humans (ovarian cancer) and sufficient evidence obtained from laboratory animals.

According to these experts, Exposure occurs mainly in the workplace during extraction, grinding or processing of talc, or during the manufacture of products containing it. For the general population, exposure occurs mainly through the use of cosmetics and body powders containing talc.

However, experts They do not rule out certain biases in the studies which have shown an increase in the incidence of cancer. Although the evaluation focused on talc that does not contain asbestos, It could not be excluded that the talc was contaminated with asbestos. in most human studies.

In June, the American pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) reached a final settlement with the courts of 42 states in the United States in a case of talcum powder accused of having caused cancers. A synthesis of studies, published in January 2020 and based on 250,000 women in the United States, found no statistical link between the use of talcum powder on the genital areas and the risk of ovarian cancer.

In the 1970s Concerns arose about contamination of talc with asbestos, which is often found near the minerals used to make talc. Studies have subsequently reported an increased risk of ovarian cancer in talc users.

The WHO agency has also classified acrylonitrile, a volatile organic compound used mainly in the production of polymers, as “carcinogenic” to humans. This decision is based on “sufficient evidence of lung cancer” and “limited evidence” of bladder cancer in humans, according to IARC.

These polymers are used in fibers for clothing, carpets, plastics for consumer products, and car parts. Acrylonitrile is also present in cigarette smoke. Air pollution is another source of exposure.

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against J&J over cancer-causing talc

A federal judge in New Jersey has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary against a scientist who published a paper linking talc-based consumer products to cancer, ruling that the research was neither fraudulent nor libelous.

U.S. District Judge Georgette Castner ruled Friday that Dr. Jacqueline Moline, chair of occupational medicine at Northwell Health, did not engage in fraud, defamation or false advertising when she published an influential 2020 article concluding that exposure to asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products can cause mesothelioma.

Moline’s conclusions were protected by their right to freedom of expression under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and J&J’s lawsuit failed to show that the underlying research was “demonstrably false,” Caster wrote.

J&J’s global vice president of litigation, Erik Haas, said Monday that the company will appeal the ruling. The company maintains that its talc products are safe, do not contain asbestos and do not cause cancer. Moline and its attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

LTL Management, a subsidiary of J&J, which was created to protect the healthcare conglomerate from talc lawsuits, sued four researchers last year, attacking scientific studies which the company claims are fraudulent. The lawsuit against three other researchers is still making its way through the courts.

The company has a mixed record in talc litigation and is seeking the plaintiff’s support for a $6.48 billion settlement proposal that would end the lawsuits.

The settlement offer has divided plaintiffs’ lawyersand many of its opponents object to the fact that J&J would use the bankruptcy of its subsidiary to end current lawsuits and future ones, and force the terms of the settlement on people who would prefer to go to trial. J&J’s two previous attempts to reach a bankruptcy settlement have failed in court.

LTL’s lawsuit alleged that Moline’s 2020 article was false because it purported to include 33 people who had no known exposure to asbestos other than through the use of talcum powder products.

J&J alleged that Moline knew that five, and perhaps more, of the study participants were exposed to asbestos through other sourcesincluding cigarette filters and building materials in participants’ homes or workplaces.

Castner dismissed that allegation, saying Moline may not have been persuaded by evidence of other possible asbestos exposure even if she knew about it.

Moline presented its research as “provisional scientific conclusions, not unequivocal statements of fact,” and J&J had not shown that she had made a “verifiably false statement” when she said study participants “had no known exposure to asbestos other than cosmetic talc,” according to the decision.

The company said Moline had “made a career” as a paid expert testifying on behalf of plaintiffs’ attorneys in asbestos cases, appearing as an expert in more than 200 cosmetic talc cases and testifying as a trial witness in 16 cases.

But Castner discovered that Dr. Moline’s research clearly revealed her work as a litigation expert, flagging it as a potential conflict of interest. He also disclosed that the data for his study came from medical records and statements from the talc lawsuits, and issued a correction after publication to indicate that one individual was also exposed to asbestos from contaminated cigarette filters.


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