Over the years, various studies have found a link between talcum powder products used for feminine hygiene and ovarian cancer. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest pharmaceutical and health care product corporations in the world, began facing thousands of lawsuits filed by women who claimed J&J’s talc-containing products – including its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products – caused them to suffer ovarian cancer. Some of those cases have resulted in significant verdicts, including a $55 million verdict in St. Louis in 2016, but thousands more are still pending. A recent $117 million verdict out of New Jersey, however, is highlighting a new focus in the litigation.
Last month, a New Jersey jury awarded $117 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson and its supplier Imerys to a man who said his asbestos-related cancer was caused by long-term use of the company’s baby powder. Although there are over 6,000 talc-related lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, those cases largely focus on ovarian cancer in women. This case involved a different form of cancer with clear links to asbestos.
The case involved a New Jersey man who claimed to have developed mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer, as a result of using baby powder for decades. In the lawsuit, plaintiffs’ lawyers alleged Johnson & Johnson knew its baby powder had been contaminated with asbestos. For the first time, a jury was shown internal documents to support that claim, further revealing that the company knew of asbestos contamination caused by the mining process since the 1970s. J&J argued that the documents only showed the company being cautious, that no contamination was ever found, and that links between talc and asbestos were nothing more than junk science.
Talc, Baby Powder & Cancer-Related Litigation
Here are a few important details about talc and talcum powder lawsuits, especially as they relate to cancer.
- Talc is a naturally occurring mineral used in hygiene products because it helps absorb moisture, keeps the skin dry, reduces friction and chafing, and can also control odor when manufacturers add fragrance. Powder products containing talc are commonly used when diapering babies, and some, including Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower powder, have been marketed to women specifically.
- According to claims raised by women who filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, long-term use of these products caused them to develop ovarian cancer. These claims cite research which shows women who regularly use talcum powder for feminine hygiene for over 7 years double their risk of developing ovarian cancer, and women who use them in excess of 20 years triple their risk of being diagnosed. As health experts cite, that’s due to talcum powder traveling through the fallopian tubes to the ovaries, acting as an irritant that can cause the disease.
- Links between talc-based products and cancer are well established, and date back decades. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has also deemed perineal use of talcum powder as “possibly carcinogenic.” Still, Johnson & Johnson never added warnings to its talc-based products regarding these risks.
- With the recent case out of New Jersey, there are now arguments that mesothelioma can be caused by long-term talcum powder use. That claim argued internal documents from Johnson & Johnson show the company knew its talcum powder products contained asbestos, which has been sufficiently linked to mesothelioma and other cardiovascular diseases. Asbestos is also a naturally occurring set of minerals, and was used widely in the late 19th century and early 20th century until its use was restricted, phased out, or entirely banned by some countries for being a known carcinogen.
- Because the links between asbestos and mesothelioma are clear, more victims diagnosed with the rare form of cancer after using talcum powder products may now have reason to pursue claims against Johnson & Johnson, especially in light of the new information released in the New Jersey case. The case may also open the door to more ovarian cancer lawsuits that allege asbestos contamination and exposure as a cause of ovarian cancer, though the links between asbestos and ovarian cancer are less clear. In fact, some studies have indicated an association between the two, while others have not found links.
Protecting Victims’ Rights: Were You Diagnosed with Cancer?
While there is still a lot to unfold when it comes to talc-based products and claims alleging cancer caused by asbestos exposure, the fact remains that numerous victims who developed cancer after using talcum powder products still have viable claims – especially as Johnson & Johnson knew about risks and failed to warn consumers. As a firm that has earned national recognition for our work handling complex personal injury and defective product cases, and recover over $1 billion in compensation for clients, we have the tools and experience to help victims in their fight for justice.
At Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP, our award-winning attorneys are actively reviewing cases from victims who believe their cancer was caused by long-term use of talcum powder. Our team can help you better understand talcum powder lawsuits, your rights, and how we may be able to assist you in taking legal action. To speak with an attorney from our firm, contact us today.