Talcum Powder Linked To Ovarian Cancer In Thousands Of Lawsuits
Thousands of ovarian cancer patients and loved ones have filed talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, accusing the company of concealing a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
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In federal and state courts across the United States, tens of thousands of women and their families have filed product liability lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, accusing the multinational corporation of manufacturing and marketing talcum-based body powders without providing sufficient information on the product’s link to ovarian cancer, CNN reports.
Does Talcum Powder Cause Cancer?
In their talcum powder lawsuits, plaintiffs claim to have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talc body powders, including Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-To-Shower products, for years, or even decades. To support their claim that talcum powders can cause ovarian cancer, the plaintiffs point to more than four decades of medical research.
Since the 1970s, over twenty medical studies, published in respected peer-reviewed journals, have concluded that talcum powder can increase the risk for developing ovarian cancer. Countless studies, plaintiffs claim, have found that women who use talc-based body powders as a feminine hygiene product develop ovarian cancer at significantly higher rates than women who do not use the products. In fact, laboratory testing has discovered evidence of talcum particles embedded in ovarian cancer tumors of women who used these products.
Lawsuits: J&J Failed To Warn Of The Risk Of Ovarian Cancer
Yet Johnson & Johnson’s body powders bear no warnings about this alleged risk. In contrast to the warnings of numerous medical research teams, Johnson & Johnson has, for over a century, defended talcum powder and its derivative products as “safe,” essential components in baby and feminine health care. Almost universally, Americans have bought into this marketing, the plaintiffs claim, making talc-based body powders a mainstay product for Johnson & Johnson.
An Unprecedented Health Risk
Today, surveys suggest that somewhere between 25% and 30% of American women use talcum powder as a feminine hygiene product, applying the powder directly to the perineum or sprinkling it on underwear and sanitary napkins.
If talcum powder truly causes ovarian cancer, as plaintiffs allege, this is an unprecedented health risk; over 40 million women in the United States could be exposing themselves on a daily basis to a product that substantially increases their ovarian risk.
Johnson & Johnson Fought Medical Research For Decades, Plaintiffs Claim
Despite years of medical evidence, Johnson & Johnson maintains that talc-based body powders are safe for women to use. Even now, in the face of extraordinary litigation, the company continues to defend the product in public. In private, things may be different. During the course of litigation, attorneys have uncovered shocking evidence that Johnson & Johnson has been working for years to hide the results of medical research.
Johnson & Johnson’s public support for talcum powder is a sham, plaintiffs assert. In fact, plaintiffs accuse the company of suppressing medical evidence for decades, concealing study results from the general public and medical professionals everywhere. In their lawsuits, patients and grieving families allege that Johnson & Johnson has spearheaded an elaborate campaign of medical misinformation, designed to keep the truth hidden from Americans.
Johnson & Johnson has repeatedly dismissed any and all scientific findings about the link as “inconclusive,” refusing to label any of its talc-based products with a cancer warning. At the same time, Johnson & Johnson has invested millions of dollars in the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association, an industry-funded group created to influence regulatory affairs and protect the profits of major industry players.
The Talc Interested Party Task Force
In 1993, the US National Toxicology Program released a study on the toxicity profile of talc. The study, the Huffington Post reports, found clear evidence that talc is a carcinogen, a substance that causes cancer. According to plaintiffs, in response to this study, Johnson & Johnson immediately went into action.
Fearing that talc would soon be officially listed as a carcinogen, Johnson & Johnson started the Talc Interested Party Task Force, or TIPTF, a body within the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association devoted explicitly to defending the use of talc and preventing regulatory scrutiny. In their lawsuits, plaintiffs assert the Talc Interested Party Task Force quickly hired its own scientists to conduct and publish biased studies in favor of talc.
These scientists, the plaintiffs allege, allowed their publications to be edited and altered by members of the Talc Interested Party Task Force, including Johnson & Johnson. As Larry Bodine writes in the Huffington Post, “members of TIPTF released false information about the safety of talc to consumers, and used political and economic influence on regulatory bodies throughout the 1990s.”
The TIPTF, led by Johnson & Johnson, was nothing more than an industry pressure group, plaintiffs allege, one designed and coordinated to publish misleading or wholly false studies that appear to support the safety of talcum powder. But all the while, evidence of talc’s carcinogenic potential continued to build.
IARC Lists Talc As Possible Human Carcinogen
In 2006, the world of talcum powder changed forever. That year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is frequently referred to as the “gold standard” of cancer research, listed talc as a “possible human carcinogen,” concluding after a review of the medical literature that women around the world who routinely use talcum powder as a feminine hygiene product have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Subsequent to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s determination, the Canadian government classified talc as a “cancer-causing” mineral under the nation’s Hazardous Products Act.
In response to these warnings, Imerys Talc, Johnson & Johnson’s primary talc supplier, began to list ovarian cancer as a potential risk of its product on the Material Safety Data Sheet it provides to customers. Johnson & Johnson, plaintiffs claim in their lawsuits, would have received this Data Sheet, which provided detailed information on IARC’s classification of talc and the Canadian government’s decision to list talc as a “cancer-causing” substance.
Despite this information, no warning has been passed on to consumers, plaintiffs claim. Johnson & Johnson has never warned consumers about talcum powder’s substantial link to ovarian cancer. To the contrary, the company has continually defended its product as perfectly safe.
Federal Talc Lawsuits Consolidated In New Jersey
These troubling allegations have led to a nearly unprecedented level of litigation. Due in part to the sheer number of lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson, these cases are being handled as a Multi-District Litigation.
As of September 2018, more than 18,000 talcum powder lawsuits are pending in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, a federal court in Trenton. Under the guidance of District Judge Freda L. Wolfson, the consolidated claims are moving through pre-trial proceedings as a group. Countless additional cases have been filed in St. Louis Circuit Court, a state court in Missouri.
Talcum Powder Verdicts
With tens of thousands of product liability lawsuits filed, the talcum powder litigation is moving forward at a rapid pace. The litigation has already resulted in a number of multi-million dollar verdicts in favor of plaintiffs.
- In February of 2016, a St. Louis jury awarded $72 million in compensation, including $62 million in punitive damages, to a woman who claimed her daily use of talcum powder had resulted in ovarian cancer. In its decision, the jury found that Johnson & Johnson had conspired to conceal the truth about talcum powder while failing to uphold its duty to inform the public accurately of talc’s risks.
- Four months later, in May 2016, a second St. Louis jury came to a similar conclusion, ordering Johnson & Johnson to pay around $55 million in damages to a woman who claimed to have developed ovarian cancer because of her use of talc-based body powders.
- In California, a Modesto County jury awarded another ovarian cancer patient more than $70 million, finding that the company had committed “negligent conduct” in manufacturing and marketing its talcum powders.
- In July of 2018, 22 women and their loved ones were given the shock of a lifetime, when a St. Louis jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay them nearly $4.7 billion in damages. In their suit, the plaintiffs had blamed their ovarian cancer cases on Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powders, including the company’s flagship Baby Powder brand.
With these verdicts and many others, juries across the country have awarded ovarian cancer patients and their loved ones billions of dollars in damages.
New Mesothelioma Claims Win Millions
More recently, a Los Angeles jury in May 2018 ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay nearly $26 million in compensation to a 68-year-old woman who was diagnosed with mesothelioma after using talc-based body powders for decades. The plaintiff’s lawsuit presented a new theory of liability, one made possible by revelations uncovered during the course of ovarian cancer litigation.
During discovery, plaintiffs’ attorneys unearthed a troubling series of memos that appear to show high-level Johnson & Johnson executives acknowledging that some of the company’s talc supply was, or continues to be, contaminated with asbestos. Asbestos is a deadly naturally-occurring mineral, the only known cause of mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer that develops in the tissue lining of organs. In the earth, asbestos and talc, which is also a naturally-occurring mineral, are often found together in deposits.
The potential for a link between Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powders and asbestos has opened a new door to litigation. Since 2018, hundreds of mesothelioma patients have joined the tens of thousands who have filed suit over ovarian cancer, accusing Johnson & Johnson of concealing the dangers of these common household products. Several of those plaintiffs have secured settlements and favorable jury verdicts at trial. Most recently, a Florida jury awarded an 82-year-old woman more than $9 million, finding that Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-contaminated talc products were to blame.