Johnson & Johnson has been under fire in the past three years over the possible cancer risks of its famous baby powder, which is made from talcum powder. In fact, there have been many successful personal injury lawsuits filed against J&J that have netted plaintiffs millions of dollars of damages. In most of the legal actions, the plaintiffs accused the consumer healthcare company of causing their ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.
In many of the lawsuits, the following evidence has been uncovered:
- The company was aware of cancer dangers of baby powder because toxic baby powder was present in some talc samples.
- The company concealed the possible cancer danger from consumers and federal regulators.
A recent investigation by Reuters found from 1972 to 1975:
- J&J had laboratory results from three labs that showed asbestos in talc samples, with one lab saying the asbestos level was ‘rather high.’
- Many J&J staff, including executives and scientists, were aware of the findings of asbestos in talc and they should do in light of J&J efforts to conceal this information.
#1 Talc and Asbestos Deposits Occur Naturally Together
Talcum and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that are mined. These minerals can sometimes form next to and among one another. So, if talc is mined from a source that contains asbestos, there is a possibility that raw talc will be contaminated with asbestos fibers.
It is incumbent on the company that mines the talc to ensure that as much asbestos is removed from the talc as possible. This is important because it is unclear how much long-term exposure to asbestos can cause ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.
A talc industry association in the 1970s recommended that all talc used in consumer products be 99.9% free of asbestos. However, J&J and other companies that make consumer products with talc wanted a lower standard of 99.5%. This lower standard allows much more asbestos to be present in the talc.
#2 Asbestos Has Been Known as a Human Carcinogen for Decades
The World Health Organization states that all types of asbestos are human carcinogens. Depending on how the worker or consumer comes in contact with asbestos and for how long, the mineral can cause many types of cancer including ovarian.
In most of the baby powder cancer lawsuits, the women used baby powder on their genitals for hygiene purposes for many years. The theory is that when the female genitals are dusted with baby powder, the powder contaminated with asbestos fibers can get into the uterus, through the fallopian tubes and into the ovaries. Over the years, the presence of small amounts of asbestos could be baby powder and cause cancer.
In a few cases, when the woman dusts herself with baby powder, she breathes some of the dust into her lungs. If it is tainted with asbestos, this can cause mesothelioma, which is a terminal cancer that grows tumors throughout the lung lining.
#3 Many Case-Controlled Studies Have Discovered a Connection Between Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer
A major clinical study released in 1971 looked at many samples of ovarian and cervical cancer tissues from women who have ovarian cancer. The findings determined that 75% of the tissues that were looked at had talc particles in them. This suggested it may be possible to use talcum powder on the genitals and develop ovarian cancer.
Since then, many talcum powder and ovarian cancer studies have been conducted. Not every one has shown this link, many studies have. One study showed there could be a 30% higher risk for getting ovarian cancer by using baby powder on the genitals for long periods. (center4research.org).
Also, an analysis of several studies done by the Cancer Prevention Research Journal found that exposure to baby powder on the genitals is related to a small or moderate increase in the risk of most subtypes of epithelial ovarian cancer. The journal summarized its findings in a paper published by NIH in 2013. Its large analysis of case-controlled studies found a small or moderate increased risk of getting ovarian cancer with regular use of baby powder on the genitals. (Healthline.com)
The American Cancer Society states on its website that any increase of risk of ovarian cancer by using baby powder is probably small. However, talc is used in many consumer products, and it is possible that high exposure to baby powder over the years could lead to greater risk. (Cancer.org)
#4 Many Women With Ovarian Cancer and A History of Using Baby Powder Have Filed Lawsuits
Across the United States, many women are taking legal action as they have learned their use of baby powder may have caused their ovarian cancer. These plaintiffs are trying to hold J&J liable for not telling the public and federal regulators about the risks associated with using talcum powder.
For example, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $25 million to a woman who said she got mesothelioma from using baby powder for decades. The company also lost a $29 million case where a woman with mesothelioma claimed her use of talcum powder caused her deadly cancer.
J&J is now facing at least 14,000 claims that its baby powder causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. (insurancejournal.com).
#5 Juries Have Stated There Is a Link Between Baby Powder and Ovarian Cancer
J&J always denies any possibility of their baby powder causing cancer. It argues its baby powder is safe and is not linked to ovarian cancer. But many juries do not agree. That is why these juries, as noted above, have been awarding large awards to some plaintiffs. The range has been from $12 million to $4.7 billion in many baby powder cancer lawsuits. Such large awards show that some juries are sympathetic to cancer victim’s arguments.
- Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer Risk. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.center4research.org/talcum-powder-ovarian-cancer/
- Talcum Powder and Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/talcum-powder-and-cancer.html
- J&J Cancer Report. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/johnsonandjohnson-cancer/
- J&J Hit With $25 Million Talc Verdict. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2019/05/22/527144.htm