In the second landmark verdict against Johnson & Johnson this year, a St. Louis jury earlier this month awarded $55 million to a South Dakota woman who was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, after using J&J’s talcum powder for feminine hygiene purposes for close to 40 years. Just a few months ago, a jury in the same courthouse awarded $72 million to the family of an Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer last year, after using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder for 35 years. According to jurors involved in the talcum powder trials, J&J intentionally distorted research to conceal the alleged link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, and lied to the public about the serious health risk.
Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower body powder products contain talc, a mineral made up mainly of the elements silicon, oxygen and magnesium, and commonly used to prevent diaper rash and other minor skin irritations. Because talcum powder absorbs moisture well and helps cut down on friction, it has been used by generations of women as a feminine hygiene product, applied to underwear and sanitary napkins or dusted on the genital area to maintain freshness and prevent vaginal odor. However, a considerable amount of research conducted over the past several decades has shown that genital use of talcum powder products may increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer and other types of cancer.
The first indication that talcum powder might be linked to ovarian cancer was brought to light in 1971, and numerous studies published in the years since have reported similar findings, including at least 22 epidemiological studies providing data linking genital talc use in women to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. In one of the most recent studies examining the alleged link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, published in the journal Epidemiology in 2016, researchers found a 33% greater risk of ovarian cancer among women who said they routinely applied talc-based powders to their underwear, feminine products or genital area.
The main issue regarding the potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer is the fact that Johnson & Johnson may have known about the risk decades ago, yet intentionally withheld this information from the public and the medical community. According to one juror in this latest talcum powder trial, Jerome Kendrick, the internal memos indicating that the company manipulated research about talcum powder and cancer, and lied to the public about the dangers of talc “pretty much sealed my opinion. They tried to cover up and influence the boards that regulate cosmetics,” he told a St. Louis newspaper. “They could have at least put a warning label on the box but they didn’t. They did nothing.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg for Johnson & Johnson though; the pharmaceutical company still faces more than 1,000 product liability lawsuits filed on behalf of women across the country who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, cervical cancer or uterine cancer after using talc-based baby powder or body powder products. If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer or another type of cancer, and you believe Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products to be the cause, contact a knowledgeable product liability lawyer as soon as possible. You may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries and medical bills, which you can pursue by filing a talcum powder cancer suit against J&J.