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Lawsuit Against Johnson & Johnson Claims Talcum Powder Causes Ovarian Cancer

Jun 2, 2015

Hundreds of women have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, claiming the company’s talcum powder products led to their ovarian cancer.

The women claim Johnson & Johnson was negligent in not warning them of the toxic substances in the product, the Inquisitr reports.

FairWarning, a nonprofit investigative news organization that focuses on public health, safety and environmental issues, uncovered a number of studies that claim regular use of talcum powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer. FairWarning editor Myron Levin told Public Radio International (PRI), "There are in the neighborhood of 700 [lawsuits,] most of them in St. Louis and in New Jersey where Johnson & Johnson is headquartered." Levin said ovarian cancer is diagnosed in 20,000 women each year and close to 14,000 women die annually from the disease. Levin told PRI that researchers believe there is a "definite causal link" to talcum powder use in about 2,100 of those ovarian cancers (about 10 percent).

Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder, which contains talcum, has been sold to consumers for more than 100 years. Talcum powder is used to absorb moisture and reduce friction; it helps keep skin dry and prevents rashes. The American Cancer Society said there is concern that women who regularly apply talcum powder in the genital area have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Research has suggested that talc particles from powder applied to the genital area or used on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condoms can travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovaries. Talc particles that reach the ovaries may cause an inflammatory response, resulting in conditions conducive to the growth of cancer cells.

According to FairWarning, as far back as 1976 toxic chemicals were found in talcum powder. The website reports that in 1976 researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York found two types of asbestos, tremolite, and anthophyllite, in 10 of the 20 consumer talcum products. FairWarning reports, "Altogether, about 20 epidemiological studies have found increased rates of ovarian cancer risk for women using talc for hygiene purposes."

Johnson & Johnson claims other studies have determined talcum powder is safe, according to the Inquisitr. The J & J website claims, "Few ingredients have demonstrated the same performance, mildness, and safety profile as cosmetic talc, which has been used for over 100 years by millions of people around the world. Talc is a common natural ingredient found in cosmetic products such as baby powder and adult body and facial powders, and in a range of other consumer products such as toothpaste, chewing gum, and aspirin."

The National Toxicology Program, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ruled in 2005 that data were insufficient to list talc as a cancer-causing agent, but in 2006 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, of the World Health Organization, classified talc as possibly carcinogenic to human beings."

In a 2013 trial in South Dakota, in a lawsuit brought by a woman whose ovarian tumor tissue had talc particles inside, the jury found the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos., Inc., guilty of negligence for failing to warn of the cancer risk, though they awarded no damages.

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