Several plaintiffs have filed claims against medical and consumer goods company Johnson & Johnson, claiming its popular Baby Powder products cause ovarian cancer when used for feminine hygiene purposes. The products, often used to absorb excess moisture and to prevent rashes, consist primarily of talcum powder.
Cancer claims against the company typically involve women's regular, long-term application of the powder to their genitals. While the medical research is inconclusive, plaintiffs insist that the company knew about the ovarian cancer risk but failed to warn consumers. Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about talcum powder cancer claims filed against Johnson & Johnson are listed below.
Q: What is talcum powder?
Talcum powder is a substance made from talc, the softest known mineral on earth, found in deposits throughout the United States. The mineral, composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen, is mined from the earth, crushed into a fine powder, and refined to remove impurities. Because of its smoothness and ability to absorb moisture, it is used to discourage friction (thereby preventing rashes) and to keep skin dry. Talcum powder is used in a wide variety of personal care products, including powder-based cosmetics and oral supplement tablets.
Q: I've read that talc naturally contains asbestos, a known carcinogen. Is this true?
It depends. While talc sometimes contains trace amounts of asbestos, which is widely known to cause cancer if inhaled, all talc-based products sold in the United States have been asbestos-free since the mid-1970s.
Q: Does talcum powder cause cancer? What does the research tell us?
The medical research into whether Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder (or talcum powder in general) causes ovarian cancer in women who apply it to their genitals is inconclusive. However, these types of correlations are notoriously hard to prove, since it is very difficult to control for other lifestyle and genetic factors, or to track overall use of the product over a long period of time.
Still, published scientific papers have suggested a possible link between (asbestos-free) talcum powder and cancer as far back as the 1960s, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), however, has found compelling correlations between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, analyzing the results of multiple studies and concluding that talc-based body powder is "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
Q: What did Johnson & Johnson know about the possible cancer risk?
Attorneys for the company insist that decades of research shows no conclusive correlation between the company's Baby Powder products and ovarian cancer. However, plaintiffs' attorneys have argued (often successfully) that Johnson & Johnson knew of these potential risks (including IARC's statements) but failed to provide warnings or properly investigate the claims.
Q: How many talcum powder cancer lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson? Have there been any verdicts?
At least 1,400 talc related cancer lawsuits have been filed in regard to this matter. The plaintiff in one case, who turned down a settlement offer, was not awarded damages although Johnson & Johnson was found to be negligent. In two other cases, the plaintiffs were awarded $72 million and $55 million in damages, respectively. As of May 2016, Johnson & Johnson has vowed to appeal the verdicts.
Q: What should I do if I have developed ovarian cancer and suspect long-term use of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder as a feminine hygiene product is to blame?
If you've received a positive diagnosis for ovarian cancer, make sure you're getting proper medical attention. You'll also want to compile as much information about your illness and your use of Johnson & Johnson brand talcum powder products as possible. Finally, it's a good idea to contact a product liability attorney who can help you protect your rights and pursue compensation for your illness through a talcum powder cancer suit.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.