For more than a century, Johnson & Johnson has manufactured and sold talcum powder. This product is sold as Johnson’s Baby Powder and is used both by parents of young children and adults. Baby powder is composed primarily of talc. For decades, many studies in the medical community have linked the long-term use of talcum powder and a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
Recently, thousands of women with ovarian cancer have filed suits against Johnson & Johnson, claiming that the company knew or should have known about this risk. In February 2016, a jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to the family of Jacqueline Fox, who died from ovarian cancer. A Missouri jury, in May this year, ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $55 million to Gloria Ristesund, an ovarian cancer survivor. As litigation against Johnson & Johnson continues to go forward, it is worth looking at the history of the connection between talcum powder and increased rates of ovarian cancer.
The First Studies
Early studies showed a link between talcum powder and asbestos-related diseases. Although commercial talc has been free of asbestos since the 1970s, many studies have confirmed the connection between talc and ovarian cancer.
- 1971: A group of Welsh doctors published the earliest research linking talcum powder usage and ovarian cancer 45 years ago. This study found talc particles in cancerous tissue from the ovaries and cervix.
- 1982: Dr. Daniel W. Cramer, who is now head of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Epidemiology Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, published a study showing a link between usage of talc and ovarian cancer. Dr. Cramer has published additional studies on this topic and is an advocate for warning labels on talcum powder.
While the previous studies did not lead to widespread change, in the 1990s and 2000s, the evidence of the danger of talcum powder use grew.
- Mid-1990s: Condom manufacturers stopped using talc in their products, as talc could enter a woman’s body, leading to potential cancer and infertility.
- 2006: The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, called talcum powder a possible cause of cancer.
The Present Day
More peer-reviewed studies continue to show the connection between usage of talcum powder and ovarian cancer. A 2016 study published by Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention showed that African American women who used talcum powder had a 44 percent increased risk of contracting ovarian cancer.
In the legal world, more and more women and surviving family members have stepped forward to hold Johnson & Johnson accountable. As stated above, Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay a combined $127 million in damages in two cases. Interestingly, most of these damages are punitive damages, which are intended to punish defendants for their wrongful conduct.
While Johnson & Johnson contends that their product is safe, the studies on the other side of this issue are becoming impossible to ignore.
If you or someone you love is a longtime user of talcum powder and has received an ovarian cancer diagnosis, you may be eligible for compensation. The lawyers of Clifford Law Offices have a strong track record of success in a broad range of class action, mass tort and personal injury lawsuits.
Sources: Lawsuits Over Baby Powder Raise Questions About Cancer Risk, New York Times, May 23, 2016, by Roni Caryn Rabin, Johnson & Johnson Has a Baby Powder Problem, Bloomberg Businessweek, March 31, 2016, by Susan Berfield, Jef Feeley, and Margaret Cronin Fisk, Johnson & Johnson Ordered To Pay $55 Million in Talc Powder Trial, Reuters Business, May 3, 2016, by Jessica Dye, Hazard Seen in Talc Used on Condoms, Reuters, March 15, 1995