Consumers have filed thousands of personal injury lawsuits against baby powder manufacturers, alleging talcum powder contaminated with asbestos caused their ovarian and mesothelioma cancers.
Baby Powder,® known as talcum powder, is made primarily from talc. Talc is mined, crushed into a fine powder, and impurities are removed.
Talc is famous for its ability to absorb moisture and reduce friction. Talcum powder is commonly used in many personal care products.
For decades, companies have marketed talc-based products to women for feminine hygiene and as a deodorant and body powder.
At first, the talc lawsuits were based on claims that regular use of baby or talcum powder for feminine hygiene increased the risk of ovarian cancer.
The talcum powder lawsuits later expanded to include claims of asbestos contamination in the talc, which could lead to mesothelioma. Asbestos is commonly found in the exact locations where talc is mined.
The talc lawsuits claim Johnson & Johnson® did not adequately test their Baby Powder products for asbestos.
Talc and ovarian cancer
Yearly, over 25,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, resulting in 15,000 deaths. About 10% of all ovarian cancer cases are “talc related.”
According to the lawsuits, women who used talc-based products in their genital region for years are most at risk for ovarian cancer.
Studies show that women who use Baby Powder or a talc-based powder weekly may face a 33% increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Women who apply a talc-based powder daily may have as much as a 41% increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
The lawsuits claim that applying talcum powder to a woman’s genital area may result in fine talc particles traveling to the ovaries. Once talc particles reach the ovaries, they may cause an inflammatory reaction leading to the proliferation of cells and DNA damage and resulting in ovarian cancer.
Talc is poorly soluble in the human body, meaning it does not readily dissolve. Talc particles can remain in human tissue for many years.
Talc-based products at issue
Johnson & Johnson is one of the largest manufacturers of talcum powder products, including Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower® products.
The talc lawsuits primarily concern Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-To-Shower products.
The link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer
The first study finding a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer appeared in 1971. Internal documents show Johnson & Johnson was worried as early as 1975 about being “put on notice” of the link between talc and ovarian cancer. An article by one of our attorneys lists the major studies linking talc to ovarian cancer.
Many remember the famous Johnson & Johnson advertising slogan from the 1980s. The jingle “Just a sprinkle a day keeps the odor away” suggested the product was safe for everyday use.
Johnson & Johnson also focused on marketing its talc products to African American and Hispanic women.
Lawsuit documents showed company insiders discussing the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
A 1997 letter stated that as early as 1994,
There had been about 9 studies … published in the open literature that did show a statistically significant association between hygienic talc use and ovarian cancer. Anybody who denies this risks that the talc industry will be perceived by the public like it perceives the cigarette industry: denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.” (emphasis added)
In 1999, Dr. Daniel Cramer authored a critical study linking ovarian cancer and talc use for female hygiene purposes, in which Dr. Cramer called for warning the general public. Dr. Cramer then received a visit from a Johnson & Johnson senior scientist.
The Johnson & Johnson scientist spent the meeting attempting to convince Dr. Cramer “talc use was a harmless habit.” But Dr. Cramer tried “to persuade him … that women should be advised of this potential risk,” according to documents in a talcum powder lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson.
If you or a family member developed ovarian cancer and suspect talcum powder use, we can advise you on whether talcum powder use is connected to the ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Our product liability attorneys will review medical records, tissue samples, and medical treatment information. After gathering the information, we can evaluate your potential claim and advise you of your legal rights. There is no charge or obligation for this assistance.