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Lawsuits Allege Tie Between Talculm Powder, Ovarian Cancer

Posted on October 1, 2015 by Kelly Wolford
talcum powder spilling out

As a law firm dedicated to product liability claims, we have seen many instances in which products used every day by consumers have been found to cause serious harm. Currently, our firm is monitoring allegations that a product women have used for decades for hygiene – talcum powder – may be linked to ovarian cancer.

In May, the Fair Warning investigative news organization published a nearly 3,000-word investigative piece that provides an excellent summary of the controversy up to this point. You can find the article at Salon.com.

As the article points out, a turning point came in October 2013, when a federal court jury in South Dakota found Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos. to be negligent due to its failure to warn women of the risk of ovarian cancer linked to the use of its talc-containing products, which are often called “baby powder” products.

However, the jury awarded no money in damages to the plaintiff, a woman who was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2006.

The jury foreperson told Fair Warning that the jury believed that actual medical proof that the woman’s use of talcum powder caused her cancer ‘”was not there,” but still, the jurors felt “Johnson & Johnson should consider putting … something on the product to alert the consumers of the possible injury[.]”

According to Fair Warning, nearly 700 lawsuits are now moving forward against Johnson & Johnson and others, including the Personal Care Products Council, a cosmetics manufacturers’ trade group.

What Is Talcum Powder?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that talcum powder is a product that contains talc, which is a mineral comprised of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. Because the powder can absorb moisture and minimize skin friction, it has often been used for personal hygiene.

One concern with talc in the past was that it contained impurities such as traces of asbestos, a mineral that has been clearly linked to cancer. However, since the 1970s, talcum powder products have been free of asbestos, according to the ACS.

Studies Have Analyzed Potential Link Between Talc and Ovarian Cancer

An estimated 21,290 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015, and 14,180 women will die from the disease, the ACS states. This makes ovarian cancer the fifth-highest cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the U.S.

According to Fair Warning, numerous studies have analyzed the possibility of a connection between using talcum powder for feminine hygiene and ovarian cancer.

In fact, the issue has been analyzed since the early 1970s, when researchers from Great Britain found talc particles “deeply embedded” in 10 of 13 ovarian tumors that they studied.

In 1982, a study published in the journal Cancer was the first to reveal a statistical link between ovarian cancer and talc use. At the time, the study’s lead author warned a Johnson & Johnson scientist to warn women of “this potential risk,” Fair Warning reports.

Altogether, roughly 20 studies have found an increased risk of ovarian cancer among women who use talcum powder for personal hygiene, according to Fair Warning. The news organization states that the studies “typically” have placed the increased risk at around 35 percent.

Consider this: According to the ACS, 1 in 75 women have the risk of developing ovarian cancer over the course of their lives. Based on the above studies, however, women who use talc powder for personal hygiene run a 1 in 50 risk of being diagnosed with the disease, according to Fair Warning.

According to the ACS, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is affiliated with the World Health Organization, has stated that genital use of talcum powder may be “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. National Toxicology Program, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have found that there is not enough data to support a conclusion that use of talcum powder raises one’s risk of ovarian cancer.

Cosmetics Manufacturers Fight Back Against Cancer Claims

As Fair Warning notes, the cosmetics manufacturers who make and market talcum powder products have – not surprisingly – rejected any claims that their products increase women’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.

The manufacturers tend to argue that statistical links between “cosmetic talc” and ovarian cancer are “weak,” and that studies finding such links suffer from “bias in the study methods.” Hence, the companies contend, there has been no need to warn women about cancer risks.

Lawsuits Move Forward, Seeking to Hold Manufacturers Accountable

According to Fair Warning, talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits are continuing to move forward despite the cosmetics industry’s insistence that talc-containing products are safe.

Many lawsuits have been filed in New Jersey – the corporate headquarters of Johnson & Johnson – and in St. Louis, Missouri, the news organization states.

The gist of the lawsuits are that cosmetics manufacturers have not only failed to warn women of the potential increased risk of ovarian cancer associated with talc, but they have also failed to switch to using a safer alternative to the mineral such as cornstarch.

At Powers & Santola, LLP, our defective products attorneys will continue to closely monitor medical research into the issue of ovarian cancer and talcum powder use. We are also closely tracking litigation of lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of baby powder products such as Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America, Inc.

If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered ovarian cancer that may be tied to the use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene, contact us without delay.

Our attorneys can put our many years of combined experience to work for you, including our experience with taking on major corporations in complex civil litigation. We believe that consumers deserve to have aggressive advocates in their corner, standing up for their rights.

We can provide a free consultation. We will review your case and help you to determine your rights and the options available to you for seeking a recovery.