Talcum powder has been in use as a personal hygiene product since becoming popular after the turn of the 20th century due to its absorbent properties. Unfortunately, talcum powder may also be dangerous and has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Thousands of women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers of talcum powder products.
Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer
Talc has been used as baby powder and in a number of personal care and women’s hygiene powders and products to keep skin cool and dry and to prevent chafing and skin irritation but there is a down side. There is evidence that use of talcum powder allows particles to travel through the vagina, uterus and Fallopian tubes to the ovaries where it may contribute to the development of ovarian cancer.
The medical industry first suspected that use of talcum powder in the genital region to be dangerous in the 1970s when researchers examining ovarian cancer found that up to 75% of ovarian tumors contained particles of talc. This was further confirmed in 1982 when a Harvard University researcher, Dr. Daniel Cramer found that use of talcum powder products may increase the risk of ovarian cancer by 30 percent.
Over the past four decades, numerous studies have been done regarding talcum powder and ovarian cancer risk. While results have been mixed, 22 of 36 studies concluded there was a small but significant increase in ovarian cancer amongst women who used talcum powder in the perineal (groin) area.
As the link between talc and ovarian cancer has become more evident, many users have taken legal action against talcum powder manufacturers. One of the most prominent makers of talcum powder products is the consumer and health products giant, Johnson & Johnson. J&J products which have been named in a number of lawsuits include best-sellers in baby care and bath products, Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower body powder, both of which originally contained talc.
Talcum Powder Marketed as Safe
Consumers use talcum powder in a variety of ways. Many apply it directly to their skin, or they use it with other items, such as diaphragms, sanitary pads, and condoms. In these instances, it is very easy to see how talc particles would make their way into a woman’s reproductive organs. Once talc makes it way past the outer barrier of the vagina into the body, there is no stopping it. One medical study showed a carbon particle was able to travel into the vagina and pass through to the Fallopian tubes within 30 minutes.
Court documents show that at least as early as 1997, Johnson & Johnson knew about the risks of ovarian cancer. Instead of warning the public, an internal memo shows that they chose to disregard the risk because it was considered “small”. At the time of the memo, the company was ramping up marketing plans to increase product sales, particular to expand their reach amongst African-Americans and Hispanics.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits
Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers are facing at least 9,000 ovarian cancer lawsuits related to use of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, Shower-to-Shower or other talcum powder products. Many of these women have stated that they used talcum powder for feminine hygiene for decades, never having been warned of the dangers.
The first of the talcum powder lawsuits was decided in South Dakota in 2013, in favor of the plaintiff. Deanne Berg was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. In her testimony, she stated she’d used talcum powder since early adulthood, specifically Johnson & Johnson’s Shower-to-Shower body powder. A leading expert in talcum research testified on Berg’s behalf and suggested that talc had caused numerous instances of cancer over the years.
Johnson & Johnson’s attorney admitted employees at the company were aware of the link, but deemed it insignificant. The South Dakota jury found Johnson & Johnson guilty of failing to warn consumers of the link between ovarian cancer and talc. The 2013 verdict was only the first of many.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson Mount
Since the first trial that found Johnson & Johnson liable for medical injury caused by its talcum powder products, thousands of women have filed ovarian cancer lawsuits against the company. Several of these cases have gone to trial and juries have already awarded about $5 billion in damages to ovarian cancer victims.
Notable cases include:
- A 2013 South Dakota jury decided in favor of a woman who developed ovarian cancer.
- A 2016 award of $72 million to the family of a Missouri woman who died after using talcum powder for several decades.
- A 2016 award of $55 million to a Missouri woman who developed ovarian cancer and was required to undergo a number of surgeries, including a hysterectomy.
- A $70 million award in 2016 to a woman who had used Johnson & Johnson powder for 40 years and had an 80% chance of dying within 2 years.
- A 2017 Los Angeles jury awarded $417 million to a woman who developed terminal ovarian cancer after using talcum powder for a number of years.
- A 2017 jury in St. Louis, awarded $110 million to a woman who claimed she had used J&J talcum powder for 40 years which caused her ovarian cancer.
- A July 2018 Missouri jury award of $4.69 billion to 22 women who claimed talcum powder products caused their ovarian cancer.
Johnson & Johnson is facing thousands of lawsuits but other manufacturers may be named as well. These include Colgate-Palmolive for its Cashmere Bouquet line and raw talc manufacturers Imerys Talc North America, Vanderbilt Minerals and Whitaker, Clark and Daniels.
Though a number of cases have been decided, thousands still remain in federal, state and local courts. Currently, J&J and other manufacturers are facing over 9,000 lawsuits but more may be expected.
More than 6,900 federal lawsuits have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey. New Jersey State Court in Atlantic County also has over 500 state lawsuits consolidated into multicounty litigation (MCL). State courts in both California and Missouri also have consolidated litigation with 800 California state cases in Los Angeles Superior Court and 1,700 Missouri state cases in St. Louis Circuit Court.
Women or family members of those who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using hygiene or personal care products containing talcum powder may be eligible for compensation for their injuries or for wrongful death. Past plaintiffs have been awarded damages or settlements to cover medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, future medical costs, and loss of consortium (ability to have intercourse). In some cases, if it can be proven that the company knew about the dangers of a product, plaintiffs may be awarded punitive damages, to punish the company, which can be much higher than other compensation.
Each case is unique but women or family members of those who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson or other talcum powder products should seek legal advice.