Teresa E. Leavitt’s mother trusted Johnson & Johnson when the company promoted its Johnson’s Baby Powder as safe enough for babies, so she used the talcum powder liberally on Leavitt from the time she was a baby in the 1960s. Teresa continued to use the powder as a young woman, dusting it on her hair and face.
Now Leavitt is suing Johnson & Johnson alleging the powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos, and left her with a deadly disease that is expected to take her life within the year, Law360 reports. She claims that the consumer health care giant knew since the 1970s that its talcum powder contained asbestos fibers, but never warned consumers of this risk, nor did the company replace the product with a safer, cornstarch-based product.
Leavitt was diagnosed in 2017 with mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or chest. It can take up to five decades for asbestos-cancer to present with symptoms but, once diagnosed, most people die within a year or two.
Leavitt underwent six chemotherapy treatments, but was too ill to attend trial. Her doctors say she it is unlikely she will live to see 2020. During the plaintiff’s opening arguments, the Oakland, California jury was presented with pictures of Leavitt’s lung tissue and lymph nodes that showed traces of talc and asbestos.
Leavitt’s case is one of thousands faced by Johnson & Johnson alleging the company was aware its talcum powder products contained asbestos but failed to warn that using it posed health risks. Many cases claim that genital use of the company’s talc-containing products contributed to ovarian cancer diagnoses. Others blame the powder for causing mesothelioma.