Many people use talcum powder every day. Its silky consistency and ability to absorb moisture has made it a preferred ingredient in deodorants and body powders for over fifty years. However, talc has recently made headlines due to the mineral’s potential to cause cancer, especially if it is used for prolonged periods—and some companies may have failed to warn consumers about the known risk.
Johnson & Johnson Under Fire for Talc Cancer Cases
Studies have shown that using talcum powder near the genitals can increase the risk of ovarian cancer in women. Just as inhaled talcum powder can increase the risk of lung cancer, talc particles that travel from the skin to the ovaries can become embedded in the reproductive tissues. It is especially difficult for the body to remove talc particles from the system, so these particles can cause inflammation and eventually form cancerous tumors.
Talc is used in many personal hygiene products, and is the primary ingredient in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder. In addition for use on infants and children, Johnson & Johnson has advocated the use of baby powder as a natural deodorant and moisture preventative for women. Over 1,000 women have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson after using baby powder for feminine hygiene, claiming that Johnson & Johnson was fully aware of the risk of ovarian cancer. In 2016, these cases were combined into one defective product lawsuit as a multidistrict litigation (MDL) against the company.
So far, these lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have produced:
- Failure to warn allegations. Numerous studies have linked talc to ovarian cancer, with initial evidence discovered in the 1970s. A 1971 study published in The Lancet found talc particles “deeply embedded” in the majority of ovarian tumors that were biopsied, and ten years later researchers discovered that women using talcum powder while they were ovulating were 92% more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who did not. In addition, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society have both declared that talc use near the genitals is a clear risk factor for ovarian cancer. Despite these warnings, Johnson & Johnson has refused to place a warning about cancer risk on its talc-containing products.
- Evidence of a cover-up. Not only did Johnson & Johnson neglect to add a warning label on talc products, the company may have gone to great lengths to conceal the cancer risk from consumers. According to court documents, Johnson & Johnson formed a lobbying group called the Talc Interested Party Task Force (TIPTF), whose mission was to defend talc use and actively prevent regulation of the talc industry by influencing political and regulatory bodies. Plaintiffs have also claimed that TIPTF produced false research about the safety of talc, hired scientists to perform biased research, and edited true scientific reports before they were submitted to governmental agencies.
- Damages. So far, juries have awarded multi-million dollar verdicts to women who suffered cancer as a result of using talc. The first two claims that went to trial resulted in damages of $72 million and $55 million, which Johnson & Johnson is responsible for paying. The most recent case decided in St. Louis involved a 62-year-old California woman who had used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene for over forty years. When she was finally diagnosed with ovarian cancer, her condition was significantly advanced. Despite undergoing surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, her doctors estimate her life expectancy at no more than five years. The jury found Johnson & Johnson responsible and ordered the company to pay $65 million in punitive damages, as well as $2.5 million for the woman’s medical costs and pain and suffering. Talc supplier and co-defendant in the case, Imerys Talc America, was also ordered to pay $2.5 million in punitive damages.
If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder, we can help. Contact our office today to speak with attorney John L. Griffith about how to begin your claim. You can also download our FREE guide for personal injury cases in Tennessee to learn more about your right to compensation.