Asbestos Can Be Unavoidable At Talc Mines, Says Material Scientist

A materials scientist called by a cancer patient in her trial against a talc supplier told a California jury Friday that asbestos often grows cheek by jowl with the once-desirable soft mineral and that when it does “you cannot avoid it.”

Materials scientist William Longo of Materials Analytical Services LLC closed out the first week of cancer patient Linda Zimmerman’s case against former talc supplier Whittaker Clark & Daniels Inc. by telling a Los Angeles County jury that, in many cases, miners are unable to avoid contaminating their talc with veins of asbestos that can sit nearby.

“It’s actually growing in the talc mine itself,” Longo said.

When they occur together, asbestos isn’t mixed in with the talc, but it could be above or below the talc layer, called a “lens,”. Miners either dig through asbestos to reach the talc lens, or, in open-pit mines, dislodge talc with dynamite blasts. Either method inadvertently stirs the materials together.

Talc miners are aware of asbestos and try to avoid it, “but you’re dealing with a microscopic mineral. You cannot avoid it. And they’ve never been successful, in my opinion, in avoiding where the accessory minerals are.”

Longo, whose lab uses powerful microscopes and sensors to detect materials’ composition, told the jury that an awareness blossomed in the late 1960s that there could be asbestos in cosmetic talc. The problem was that the testing methods used at that time didn’t have the sensitivity to detect low levels of asbestos.

Zimmerman and her legal team will look to show that the company holds blame for the fact that she used what she says is a highly dangerous product every day for 64 years, stopping only after she was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2018.

Longo will be cross-examined by Whittaker’s lawyers when the trial continues next week.


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