Women who used talcum powder in their hygiene routines are taking legal action after years of using the seemingly safe product that many now believe led to their development of cancer. Johnson & Johnson, considered the most popular manufacturer of the product, has promoted their powders as safe and effective for use by people of all ages.
After years on the market, it was eventually determined Johnson & Johnsons Baby Powder containing talc was not safe for babies due to the fact researchers found babies and children could inhale the fine powder and develop a variety of medical issues related to talc exposure.
More recent concern has arisen over talcum powder’s use as a feminine hygiene product. Many women believe their long-time use of Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower talcum powder led to the development of ovarian cancer and they are taking legal action against the manufacturer.
Talcum Powder Lawsuits Successful
The first successful lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson came in 2013. Deane Berg, a South Dakota woman, won her claim when she argued the company was negligent because it did not warn consumers of the increased risk for developing ovarian cancer associated with use of the powder. Berg was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006 and according to medical reports, talc was found in a sample of the cancer tissue removed from her body.
Since Berg was successful, two class action claims have been filed claiming Johnson & Johnson was negligent in its failure to warn consumers of the risks related to its talcum powder product.
In 2014, Mona Estrada of Stockton, California filed a claim on behalf of a class in the Eastern District of California. Estrada had not developed cancer as a result of her use of the product, but according to her attorneys, filed the suit on behalf of women put at risk. Estrada claimed research showed women who used talcum powders on their genital areas showed a 33 percent higher likelihood of developing ovarian cancer. The claim also alleged Johnson & Johnson knew of this increased risk, but made no effort to share the information with the medical community or consumers.
In addition to Estrada, another class action claim was filed in Illinois by Barbara Mihalich, arguing the company violated Illinois’s Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act and profited unjustly from the sale of its powder products. Mihalich, like Estrada, is not a cancer survivor, but was a talcum powder user.
Of all the cases filed so far, three have won large jury awards, the most recent being a $70 million verdict in October 2016 awarded to a California woman who said she used baby powder for years before her ovarian cancer emerged. Other cases have been thrown out by judges because they lacked reliable evidence that talc causes ovarian cancer.
Additional Research on the Horizon
At the present time, there is conflicting evidence concerning the connection between use of talcum powder products and ovarian cancer.
Most recently, doctors in Manhattan found a small, but statistically significant link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer, but have not definitively concluded cosmetic products with talc cause cancer. According to Dr. Paolo Boffetta, associate director for cancer prevention at The Tisch Cancer Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, a review of 24 previously published statistical analyses and re-examination of several studies involving more than 300,000 ovarian cancer patients revealed about a 20 percent higher risk of cancer for women who say they use talc products. Boffetta believes it’s still too early to conclude that talc use causes ovarian cancer.
Despite no 100 percent definitive link, doctors still encourage patients to discontinue use of talc-containing products. According to Dr. Eva Chalas, chief of gynecologic oncology and vice-chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, “Anything that can get in the peritoneal cavity can increase the risk. We discourage patients from using anything that increases irritation or inflammation.”
Ovarian cancer is considered one of the most lethal forms of cancer, resulting in approximately 14,000 deaths per year, more than any other type of reproductive cancer. Doctors point out since there is no general form of screening for ovarian cancer, it’s especially important to take precautions against the disease. So even though evidence is limited concerning the risk for talc, eliminating use of it in the genital area is important. We want users of Johnson & Johnson powders and other talcum powder products to be aware of the risk and know they might have the option to take legal action if they think their development of ovarian cancer might be linked to the use of consumer products.