Friday, 21 Jun 2024

‘I’ve got terminal cancer – and I think killer make-up could be to blame’

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A mother of two claims make-up she wore as a child or in later life is the cause of a terminal cancer diagnosis from which 60 per cent of patients die within 12 months.

Hannah, a 48-year-old city high-flyer from Surrey, has fond memories of playing with her mother’s cosmetics as a child.

Recalling a ‘big box of eyeshadows and lipsticks’ and the ‘face powder everyone used to plaster over themselves back then’, Hannah said: “While she was doing her make-up, my brother and I used to fight with the powder puffs, covering the carpet in talcum powder. It was such fun.”

Unbeknownst to Hannah, the cosmetics contained a fatal ingredient.

Hannah has mesothelioma, a terminal cancer which affects the mesothelium, a membrane on the outside of the lungs, heart, intestines and abdomen, caused by asbestos.

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Hannah’s peritoneum is affected – the lining of the abdomen and there is no cure.

A growing number of British women, including Hannah, are seeking legal remedies against cosmetics companies in the US courts for mesothelioma which they believe was caused by asbestos in their make-up.

American manufacturers Avon and Estee Lauder, and its subsidiary Clinique, reached a ‘resolution’ with Hannah this summer to avoid going to trial. None of the parties will say what the resolution involved, and the companies denied liability for causing Hannah’s illness, but it is thought to have cost them a substantial sum to settle.

Hannah’s UK lawyer, Harminder Bains, a partner at Leigh Day, says her firm alone is representing at least 20 other claimants, although no one knows for sure how many more British women are in the pipeline.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Hannah said: “I had no idea that my make-up could be hazardous to my health – nobody did, and most people still don’t – but there is proof that the cosmetics industry knew and I am so very angry about that.”

Adding that her ‘life had been taken away’ and she just wanted to make people aware of the ‘possible danger in their make-up’.

Millions of people wear make-up every day with no ill-effects but the danger is thought to lie in the talc contained within it.

Valued for its absorbent, deodorant and anti-chafing properties, talc is mined around the world.

However, it is often found in the same geological locations as asbestos, which is also mined as a naturally occurring fibrous mineral, and sometimes the talc is contaminated by asbestos.

US patient advocacy group, the Mesothelioma Centre said: “Even though not every talc deposit is contaminated with asbestos, unfortunately, many of them are. Talc deposits tend to contain highly carcinogenic forms of asbestos, such as tremolite or anthophyllite. These forms are more carcinogenic than chrysotile, the most-used type of asbestos.”

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Mesothelioma can take between ten and 50 years to develop, meaning the exact product containing the asbestos that proved fatal for Hannah is unknown.

Hannah had held senior executive positions with NatWest, Visa, the law firm Linklaters and Avios, part of the International Airlines Group until her symptoms started.

In 2015, Hannah went home to Wales to visit her mother, Sally Gaydon, 72, who became alarmed as soon as she saw her and insisted she see a GP.

Hannah said: “He sent me straight to a gynaecologist and that was lucky for me because the gynaecologist at Epsom Hospital [in Surrey] had heard of peritoneal mesothelioma. Within three weeks I was on chemotherapy.”

She’s undergone courses of chemo and immunotherapy, and a 14-hour surgery, surpassing all expectations but she has had a full hysterectomy as well as having her spleen, appendix and gall bladder removed.

On top of this, the legal battle has taken its toll on Hannah both emotionally and physically but she continues to be defiant and optimistic, enjoying each new day with her family.

Hannah added: “The cosmetics industry really should stop using talc when there are simple and safe alternatives like corn starch.

“If some lives can be saved in the future, then taking up the fight will have been worthwhile.”

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