Talc is one of the softest minerals known to man and is comprised of magnesium, oxygen and silicon. It has a strong ability to absorb odors and moisture.
Johnson & Johnson has been selling talcum powder for over 100 years. It was one of the first products, designed originally to help heal skin irritations. However, once people noticed its ability to prevent and heal diaper rashes, the company introduced its widely popular Baby Powder, made up of 99.8% talc.
The company pushed the use of its powder for babies and adults alike; by the 1980’s, the company claimed that 70% of its baby powder was being used by adults. In 2014, Johnson & Johnson had $374 million in talcum powder sales.
For decades, women have been using baby powder daily in their genitals area to “freshen up.” Because baby powder is considered a cosmetic, it does not require approval from the FDA and contained no warning of the potential dangers associated with it.
However, women have suffered devastating consequence of a significantly higher risk of ovarian cancer.
Talcum Powder Cancer
The first suggestion that talcum powder may be linked to a higher risk of ovarian cancer was in 1971 when a British study of 13 ovarian tumors concluded that talc was embedded in 10 of them.
In 1982, an epidemiologist from Brigham & Women’s hospital found a statistical link between ovarian cancer and the use of talc in the genitals area. Since that study was published, more than 20 additional studies have concluded the same thing – long term perineal use of talc significantly increases the risk of ovarian cancer.
There are also a number of research studies that have been done that have failed to find a link between talc and ovarian cancer, causing a great deal of disparity and confusion.
Johnson and Johnson Ovarian Cancer Lawsuit
The first lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson regarding their failure to warn consumers about the dangers of their baby powder was in 2009.
Diane Berg sued the company for gross negligence and fraud after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 49 years old. Since she was a teenager, Diane had been routinely using baby powder in her underwear to remove odors and stay fresh, the same way she used deodorant or brushed her teeth.
In 2013, Johnson & Johnson offered her an out of court settlement f $1.3 million if she would drop all accusations. She declined, offended that the offer included a confidentiality clause, and in the end received no financial compensation.
However, in February 2016, a jury found Johnson & Johnson responsible in a similar case and ordered that they pay $72 million to the family of a woman who died just four months earlier from ovarian cancer caused by long term use of talcum powder.
The jury awarded the family $10 million in compensatory damages and an additional $62 million in a punishment award. While this was the first time Johnson & Johnson were ordered to pay damages over claims it knew about the risks associated with talcum powder for decades, they still face over 1,200 additional lawsuits.
Because the research about the potential link between talc and ovarian cancer has been varied, the lawsuits are not necessary settling the question of if talcum powder definitively causes ovarian cancer. Instead, the heart of the issue here is whether or not Johnson & Johnson knew of the risks and failed to warn consumers.
One of the most damaging pieces of evidence to emerge from this lawsuit was an internal memo from a medical consultant that suggested denying the possible risks of talcum powder could ultimately damage the company’s image. This was enough proof for the jury to reasonably decide the company has purposefully concealed information.
In another case that ended in May 2016, a jury also sided against Johnson & Johnson, awarding $55 million in damages to a woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had been using baby powder for over 40 years.
The company stands by its assertion that its baby powder is safe and plans to appeal both cases.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits Moving Forward
In the last few years, there have been multiple class action lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson, claiming the company knew about the dangers of using baby powder in the genital area and failed to warn consumers. The class action suits are seeking refunds on behalf of individuals who purchased the products without knowing the risks of ovarian cancer.
The information provided here is meant to be informative and does not constitute medical or legal advice in any way. If you have any questions or concerns, you should seek the advice or a medial or legal professional for proper recommendations.