Talcum Powder Class Action Suit Initiated in Canada

A group of Canadian plaintiffs, including the estate of a Montreal woman who died of ovarian cancer, have launched a class action against health care giant Johnson & Johnson. The plaintiffs claim that their cancers were caused by Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products and that the company knew about the ovarian cancer risk but concealed the risk from consumers.

In addition to the Montreal woman’s estates, plaintiffs also include seven other women who live in Ontario and Quebec. In legal documents, the plaintiffs allege “negligent development, testing, design, manufacturing, licensing, distribution, marketing and sale of Johnson’s Baby Powder.” Similar allegations have been made in the more than 1,000 cases currently pending in the United States.

The Canadian plaintiffs say Johnson’s Baby Powder is “inherently dangerous.” The talcum powder “causes, materially contributes to, and materially increases the risks of ovarian cancer in females who apply it (or who have it applied) to their perineal area.”

The class action charges J&J with negligent concealment for failing to disclose the cancer risks to the health and life of the plaintiffs, and failing to recall the Baby Powder from Canadian stores.

In 2016, juries in two talcum powder cases tried in the U.S. made multimillion awards. One award was to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer in 2015 and the other award was to a cancer survivor. A large portion of both awards consists of punitive damages, which are intended to punish Johnson & Johnson and deter similar conduct in the future. J&J plans to appeal both verdicts.

A number of research studies have connected women’s use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene with an increased risk of ovarian cancer, though other studies have yielded mixed results. The American Cancer Society explains that talcum powder might contribute to the development of ovarian cancer if the powder is applied to the genital area, on sanitary napkins, or in the underwear.  Talc particles can migrate through the vagina and fallopian tubes into the ovaries. Prolonged genital-area use of talcum products has been associated with inflammation in the ovaries and inflammation is thought to contribute to tumor formation. Many of the women who have filed talcum powder lawsuits report decades of regular talcum powder use.

In 1982, Dr. Daniel W. Cramer, a Harvard professor, and his colleagues studied 215 women with ovarian cancer and a control group of 215 women who did not have the disease. The women who used talcum powder were at nearly twice the risk for ovarian cancer, and those who used talcum powder regularly in the genital area and on sanitary pads were at more than three times the relative risk for the disease, the New York Times reports.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says about 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually and about 14,500 die from the disease. Ovarian cancer often goes undetected at the early stages; symptoms are often dismissed as menstrual or abdominal discomfort. Because there is no approved screening test for the disease, the diagnosis is often not made until the disease is at an advanced stage, when it is harder to treat and the woman’s prognosis is worse.





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