Does Talcum Powder Cause Cancer? Lawsuits Are Underway

Johnson & Johnson, the health products behemoth, sells products such as baby powder and adult body and face powders that contain the mineral talc, used to absorb water and reduce friction. Talc exposure is believed to increase the risk of ovarian cancer, and many women use Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene.

 Huge class-action lawsuits have been, and are being, litigated over the question of whether talc is a cause of ovarian cancer. Lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have alleged that talc is carcinogenic, and point to a connection between repeated talc exposure and ovarian cancer.   More than 2,400 lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson, and more are undoubtedly in the offing. The company has paid out many millions of dollars to women who developed ovarian cancer after using J&J’s baby powder.

The American Cancer Society acknowledges that some forms of talc used to contain asbestos, known to cause cancer when inhaled. Asbestos, however, has been banned as an ingredient in American-produced products for 45 years. The lawsuits center on the evidence, accumulating since 1971, that talc causes cancer. A 1982 study found a 92 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who used talc-based products around their genitals. The researcher behind that study directly advised a J&J doctor to place a warning label on their products, reported consumerist.com.
In 2015, three successful lawsuits in Missouri ended with $197 million in total damages against J&J and its talc supplier Imerys Talc. In March 2017, J&J won a rare victory when a St. Louis jury rejected a similar claim, according to fairwarning.org. “We deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by ovarian cancer,” said a J&J spokeswoman following the verdict. “We commend the jury for following the science that establishes the safety of talc,” Said an Imerys spokeswoman, “Imerys sympathizes with women suffering from ovarian cancer and hopes that the scientific community’s efforts will continue to be directed toward finding the true causes of this terrible disease.”
Shortly afterwards, in May of this year, a Missouri jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $110 million, the biggest talc/ovarian cancer verdict yet, to a Virginia woman who says she developed ovarian cancer after decades of using of its talc-based products for feminine hygiene. Of the $110 million award, $105 million were punitive damages. J&J was found to be 99 percent at fault ($105 million), while Imerys Talc was only one percent at fault ($500,000), reported CBS News.
“Once again we’ve shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America,” a plaintiffs’ lawyer said in a statement.
With a record of verdicts for both plaintiffs and defendants, these suits will certainly continue.
Remember: every case is different, and case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case.  Case results in one case do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.
Craig Follis has extensive experience in litigation, negotiating and settling suits, and providing legal opinions on liability and insurance coverage. You can reach him at (888) 703-0109 or via email at cfollis@lawyersva.com.

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