Talcum powder, a major ingredient used in products like Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, may be a contributing cause of ovarian cancer. Since the 1970’s, limited scientific studies have linked the powder with increased risk of ovarian cancer. Though aware of these studies, Johnson & Johnson failed to inform consumers about the potential risk.
Since January 2016, the company has been forced to pay over $117 million in damages to victims who have suffered ovarian cancer after long-term use of their baby powder products. There are still over 1,000 lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson for failing to inform consumers about the potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
Talcum powder is the main, seemingly innocent ingredient in Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. Many other companies use cornstarch in their baby powder products. Talcum powder is made from talc, the softest mineral on the planet. Hardness in minerals is measured by a scratch scale, so the softest mineral could be scratched by every other mineral, and would be unable to make a scratch on any mineral.
Talc is made up of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. It is usually used in products like paint, ceramics, plastic, and rubber, but is also found in blush, eye shadow, and chewing gum.
Talc was first used by Johnson & Johnson to relieve skin irritation in the late 1800’s, and with the addition of fragments was quickly adopted as baby powder. In the mid-1960’s, the company started marketing talc as a beneficial addition to women’s hygiene habits with slogans like “Best for Baby, Best for You.” By the 1990’s, over half of all Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder sales were used by adults.
In 1971, a small study done by British researchers found a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The researchers analyzed 13 ovarian cancer tumors and found talc particles deeply embedded in 10 of the tumors. A study in 1982 confirmed the link between genital use of talc powder and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Today, the link has been confirmed by at least 20 additional studies. Though the exact cause of the link remains unknown, many scientists speculate that fine talc particles sprinkled near the genitals could end up traveling to the ovaries where they cause chronic inflammation and increase the risk of cancerous tumors.
Ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly cancers; it is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Every year about 20,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 14,000 women die from the cancer. It can be difficult to diagnose because it has no regular screening test and no known causes.
The odds of a woman in the United States being diagnosed with ovarian cancer are about 1 in 70. Medical studies have found that the use of talcum powder increases the risk to 1 in 53 odds of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This means that the use of talcum powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer by about 33%.
Since the first study in the 70’s Johnson & Johnson has been aware of the possible link between ovarian cancer and talcum powder. Currently, lawsuits against the company claim that Johnson & Johnson had a duty to inform consumers about the link. The company already places a warning on baby powder packaging to tell consumers to avoid inhalation of the product as it can lead to dangerous conditions like mesothelioma. As a cosmetic product, baby powder faces few regulations from government agencies.
There is controversy over the earliest studies of the link between talc and ovarian cancer because talc was sold differently. The early studies coincided with new regulations to keep asbestos, a group of dangerous minerals, out of talc powder. Though most companies changed practices, to this day asbestos can still be found in some talc powder. For many years, Johnson & Johnson claimed that studies linking talc with cancer were the result of a misunderstanding about these regulations; J & J claims that without asbestos talc is not harmful.
Though the company assures consumers that asbestos is not present in its baby powder products, enough studies have proved the link between asbestos-free talc to ovarian cancer.
In 2000, scientists in the National Toxicology Program overwhelmingly voted to list talc as carcinogenic or potentially cancer-causing, but Johnson & Johnson convinced the scientists to suspend a concrete decision. In 2006, the cancer agency division of the World Health Organization declared the genital use of talc powder to be carcinogenic.
Since that decision Luzenac, the company that supplies talc to Johnson & Johnson, has included a warning on all bags of the possible risk of ovarian cancer with the genital use of talc powder.
Johnson & Johnson continues to defend the use of talc and maintains the safety of talc for genital use.
Deane Berg was the first woman to sue Johnson & Johnson for failing to inform women about the risks of genital use of talc powder. Ms. Berg refused to settle out of court and sign a confidentially clause. Though the jury found Johnson & Johnson responsible for Ms. Berg’s diagnosis of ovarian cancer, they awarded her no damages.
In February of 2016, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72 million of damages to the estate of Jackie Fox, a lifetime user of Johnson & Johnson baby powder who died two years after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
In early May of 2016, Gloria Ristesund was awarded $5 million of damages for compensation and $50 million of punitive damages meant to punish Johnson & Johnson.
Over 1,000 cases against the company are still pending for failing to warn consumers about the risks of talc.
If you currently use a talc-based product (check the ingredients on the back of the bottle) in the genital area, stop! Since 1999, the American Cancer Society has recommended the use of cornstarch-based products for use in the genital area. Medical studies have yet to find any link between cornstarch and ovarian cancer.
To learn more about the symptoms associated with ovarian cancer visit the American Cancer Society’s web page.
If you or a loved one has suffered ovarian cancer after use of talcum powder, you need to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. The Law Offices of Luvell L. Glanton have the experience and expertise you need for a successful case.
Call our offices today at 615-244-4511 to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal options.