WASHINGTON – Wednesday’s $12.4 million verdict against Colgate-Palmolive Co. by a jury that found that a California woman contracted mesothelioma from asbestos-laced talcum powder is a stark reminder of the threats that asbestos still poses to millions of people, said EWG Action Fund.
The Los Angeles jury found in favor of Judith Winkel, ordering the company to pay $12.4 million in damages to her and her husband. The company then settled for an undisclosed amount before the jury ruled on the question of punitive damages. Mesothelioma is almost always fatal, and the only known cause of the cancer is asbestos exposure.
“As the case of Judith Winkel shows, you don’t have to be exposed to asbestos in the workplace. People who have never worked in a construction site or manufacturing plant can fall ill and even die as a result of contact with even small amounts of the deadly mineral,” said Alex Formuzis of EWG Action Fund’s Asbestos Nation campaign. “More than 10,000 people die each year in the U.S. of asbestos-related disease, roughly the same number as die from skin cancer. It’s a serious threat, and millions of Americans, including children, remain exposed to asbestos.”
Talc is a naturally occurring mineral that is often found in mines where asbestos is also found, leading to the presence of the notorious carcinogen in some talc-based products. The product at the center of the case involving Mrs. Winkel was Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder, formerly manufactured and sold by Colgate.
“Companies have for decades hidden the presence of asbestos in both consumer products and the workplace, leaving an untold number of Americans exposed and at risk of serious injury, including death,” Formuzis added. “The pattern of misdeeds and secrecy by the asbestos industry and downstream users has been well-documented.”
In 2004, EWG uncovered some of the more egregious examples of asbestos industry malfeasance in internal company documents the non-profit organization obtained.
In one notable 1966 memo, an asbestos company executive wrote: “My answer to the problem is this: if you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products, why not die from it. There’s got to be some cause.”
EWG Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that is a separate sister organization of the Environmental Working Group. The mission of EWG Action Fund is to protect health and the environment by educating the public and lobbying on a wide range of environmental issues. Donations to EWG Action Fund are not tax-deductible.
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