It’s a seemingly innocuous substance. You may have some in your house right now, and you’ve probably been using it for years. And yet, some research has shown a direct correlation between its use and an increased risk of ovarian cancer among women.
Talcum powder is made from the mineral talc (magnesium, silicon, and oxygen). It’s been used in baby, cosmetic, and hygiene products for decades because of its ability to absorb moisture and reduce friction.
We grew up using it – often marketed as baby powder – on our children to prevent diaper rashes, and many continued using it themselves into adulthood. It’s ubiquitous.
But a landmark study in 1971 discovered a link between talcum powder used on and around the genitals and ovarian cancer. Organizations have been lobbying ever since to have a warning included on the label, but companies like Johnson & Johnson have resisted, citing a lack of supporting evidence.
Results in both lab tests and studies involving people have been mixed, with some finding an increased risk of cancer, and others showing no correlation whatsoever. However, many prominent medical practitioners believe strongly that talcum powder used in feminine hygiene products is a dangerous game. Dr. Daniel Cramer of Harvard University states that talcum powder is a contributing factor in 10,000 ovarian cancer cases annually. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the use of talcum powder products on the genitals as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. And a 2013 report in Cancer Prevention Research notes a 20-30% increased risk for women who use it on the groin area.
The evidence is mounting, and the number of cases against producers has been increasing in the past few years.
The first noteworthy lawsuit took place in 2013 when Deane Berg of South Dakota filed suit against Johnson & Johnson after she developed ovarian cancer. She had used their talcum powder for years. Berg won her case when the jury found J&J negligent, but awarded no financial compensation.
Both Mona Estrada of California and Barbara Mihalich of Illinois have filed class-action lawsuits on behalf of all women who have used talcum powder without knowing of the risk. Their suits are pending.
Juries in Missouri have recently awarded the first two monetary awards in the continuing saga. The first was an award of $72 million in February 2016 to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder for two decades. Jacqueline Fox was only 62 years old when she succumbed to the disease. The second – awarded earlier this month – was for $55 million to Gloria Ristesund of South Dakota. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 after using J&J talcum powder for feminine hygiene for nearly 40 years. In both cases, the jury was shown internal memos that indicated at least an awareness of the issue within the company, but they failed to protect consumers with warning labels or further study.
Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal both suits.
There are currently no fewer than 1200 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and several smaller producers of talcum powder products. If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder for a period of time, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact one of the expert personal injury lawyers at Duffy & Duffy to discuss your situation and see if you have a case.