Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits
Talcum powder, also commonly known by the brand name “Baby Powder,” comes from talc, a naturally occurring mineral composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Cosmetics company Johnson & Johnson introduced the beauty product into the marketplace more than 100 years ago.
Talc is widely used in products ranging from baby powders to cosmetics and facial powders. It naturally absorbs moisture and helps keep skin dry. Many female consumers use this product on their genital area for these purposes. However, its safety has been questioned in recent years.
Starting in 2013, Johnson & Johnson has had to defend against three separate lawsuits, all claiming that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer and that the company knew of the possible health risks but failed to warn consumers of those risks. The lawsuits accuse Johnson & Johnson of negligence and breach of implied warranty, among other allegations.
Links to Ovarian Cancer: Can Baby Powder Really Cause Cancer?
Plaintiffs in the talcum powder lawsuits claim that talc-based powders may cause cancer in a woman’s ovaries if the powder particles were to travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovaries. Johnson & Johnson has refuted that allegation by claiming there isn’t enough statistical data to prove that talc powders can travel up through the reproductive tract, thereby causing cancer. Talc powder has also been linked to pulmonary issues and lung cancer, typically by way of inhalation.
What the Science Says
The scientific evidence is currently inconclusive regarding whether or not talcum powder can cause cancer in humans. According to the American Cancer Society(ACS), it is still unclear if talc increases the risk of cancer in humans. Conversely, the International Association for the Research of Cancer (IARC), a widely recognized international authority on cancer, declared the use of talc-based body powder on the genital area as “possibly” carcinogenic to humans.
Why doesn’t Johnson & Johnson just put a label on products containing talc, warning of the possible health risks including cancer? Simply put, they aren’t required to do so by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Baby powder is considered a cosmetic product and is therefore exempt from undergoing any safety review by the FDA, unlike food, tobacco products, dietary supplements, medicine, medical devices, and other products. Johnson & Johnson does have a limited warning label on Baby Powder, however, stating it is “For External Use Only” and urging consumers not to inhale the product. Critics say the warning does not go far enough.
Talcum Powder Cancer Lawsuits
Three talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits have gone to jury verdict in recent years, two awarding plaintiffs a total of $127 million dollars in damages:
- In 2011, Gloria Ristesund was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after years of baby powder use on her genitals. Her case went to trial and a jury awarded her $55 million dollars.
- In February 2011, Jacqueline Fox was also diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer after sprinkling baby powder on her underwear since she was a teenager. She died in 2015. In that lawsuit, her lawyers introduced internal document from Johnson & Johnson suggesting they knew of the possible health effects of baby powder, but chose to market baby powder specifically to African- American consumers. A jury awarded Fox’s family $72 million dollars in damages
- In 2007, Deane Berg was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder almost every day from 1975-2007. She won her case; however, the court ruled that Johnson & Johnson was not part of a conspiracy, and the jury decided the drug company was not liable, awarding no financial damages to Berg.