Lawsuit Alleges Baby Powder Talc is not Asbestos-Free

    Cody Porcoro

    Written by
    on October 31, 2017

    Following the death of a mother due to ovarian cancer, her family filed suit against the pharmaceutical company that had sold her the product without any attached warnings over talcum powder. Though the product was alleged to be free of carcinogenic asbestos since the 1970’s, the woman’s development of cancer after years of using talcum-based baby powder opposed assumptions that talc was now free of increasing cancer risk. In order to determine whether the company owed damages to the woman’s family, an expert in surgical pathology was required to observe tissue samples and causally connect talc exposure with ovarian cancer.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Please briefly describe your experience in identifying talc in tissue, and what tests or methods you would utilize to do so.

    Expert Witness Response E-053284

    Since talc is composed magnesium and silicon, we would have to do some preliminary analysis on the powder while dry, in solution, and finally ‘in vivo,’ or in cell cultures and animal studies. At this time, I have never visualized these talc particles in the electron microscope, so these preliminary analyses would be necessary. The most likely method to detect these particles would be using X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy, which we have available on both our scanning electron and transmission electron microscopes. However, this method has a lower limit of detection; we would be able to see the powders when dissolved or dry, but magnifying to see them once they are in cells or tissues would be more difficult. We have other, more sensitive methods, but localization of these particles will most likely be challenging regardless. A negative result would not necessarily mean that talc is not present, but rather that it may be present in another very specific area of tissue.

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