Talcum Powder Lawsuits Continue to Pile Up

Johnson & Johnson is faced with a growing number of lawsuits from women who allege that Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder are responsible for their ovarian cancer.

The lawsuits include wrongful death lawsuits from the families of women who have died of the disease, Top Class Actions reports. Eighty-one named plaintiffs claim they or their loved ones were diagnosed with or have died from ovarian cancer resulting from years of use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene.

These women from across the country each developed a subtype of ovarian cancer as a result of applying talcum powder, including Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower to Shower, in the genital area as part of their daily routine. Some of the women sprinkled the powder on their underwear or on sanitary napkins.

In their legal complaints, some of the plaintiffs say they used talcum powder products for decades before their ovarian cancer diagnosis, while others used talcum powder for just a few years.

One of the 81 plaintiffs, a Missouri woman, said she used talcum powder products manufactured and sold by Johnson & Johnson from 1985 to 2015.  In Oct. 2014, the woman was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She attributed the cancer to the “unreasonably dangerous and defective nature of talcum powder and [Johnson & Johnson’s] wrongful and negligent conduct in the research, development, testing, manufacture, production, promotion, distribution, marketing, and sale of talcum powder,” according to Top Class Actions.

Another plaintiff holds Johnson & Johnson responsible for the death of his wife, Ann.  Ann used Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products and diagnosed with ovarian cancer, from which she died.

Talcum powder is derived from talc, a soft mineral comprised mostly of silicon, magnesium and oxygen. Talc, in powder form, absorbs moisture and odors and helps prevent chafing. It is widely used in cosmetic products, including baby powders, body and facial powders and products used for feminine hygiene purposes.

But studies dating back as far as 1971 suggest that using talcum powder as a feminine hygiene product can result in ovarian cancer. Scientists believe that when talc is applied to the genital area, small particles can work their way into the vagina and eventually migrate to the ovaries. The talc causes inflammatory responses to the substance and potentially disrupts the immune system’s response. Inflammation is thought to contribute to tumor formation.

Two talcum powder cases have gone to trial this year and both have resulted in jury awards for the plaintiff. One jury awarded $55 million to a woman who developed ovarian cancer; another jury awarded $72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer. J&J appealed the $55 million award but the court upheld the award.

In a talcum powder trial now underway, an expert witness told the jury that he believes the risk of ovarian cancer in talcum powder users is strong enough that talcum powders should carry a cancer warning. The witness criticized J&J for not conducting studies to assess the cancer risk. But because the cosmetics industry is largely unregulated, the FDA cannot force the company to conduct such studies.


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