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Plaintiffs Ask that Ovarian Cancer-Talcum Powder Cases be Consolidated

Sep 21, 2016

Plaintiffs in the growing number of talcum powder lawsuits have filed a motion requesting the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate the lawsuits into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for pre-trial proceedings.

The proposed jurisdiction for MDL is the Southern District of Illinois, Digital Journal reports.

The plaintiffs in the cases note that over four decades, studies have found that women who use talcum powder as a feminine hygiene product are more likely to develop ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder is a named in the lawsuits.

Talc is the softest mineral on earth, and is used in body powders because of its ability to absorb moistures and odors. Talc is used in a variety of products, including cosmetics, ceramics, paint, paper, plastic, and rubber. Women have long applied talcum powder to the genital area or have sprinkled it on their underwear, tampons or sanitary pads.

The American Cancer Society explains that minute talc particles can migrate through the vagina and fallopian tubes into the ovaries and cause inflammation, which is thought to contribute to tumor formation. Many of the women who have filed talcum powder lawsuits report decades of regular talcum powder use for feminine hygiene.

The first scientific study to report a possible connection between a woman's talcum powder use and ovarian cancer was published in 1971, Bloomberg reports. In 1982, Harvard professor Dr. Daniel W. Cramer and his colleagues found that women who used talcum powder were at nearly twice the risk of developing ovarian cancer, and those who used it regularly on their genitals or sprinkled it on their underwear, tampons or sanitary pads were at more than three times the relative risk, according to the New York Times. Though not all studies indicate an increased risk, 20 studied show degrees of increased risk in women with long-term use of talcum powder for feminine hygiene.

Johnson & Johnson has denied the association between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. The company has never issued a warning about the potential risks of Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower To Shower products, though the talc supplier warns of the risks. Johnson's Baby Powder carries a warning to avoid letting the baby inhale the powder, but there is no warning for women who use the powder in the genital area.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually and about 14,000 die from the disease. Ovarian cancer often goes undetected at the early stages because the symptoms are often thought to be menstrual or abdominal discomfort. There is no approved screening test for ovarian cancer so the disease is often not diagnosed until later stages, when it is harder to treat.

Two talcum powder trials decided earlier this year resulted in damage awards for the plaintiffs. A Missouri jury awarded $72 million to the family of an Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer in fall 2015 and in May, a jury awarded $55 million to a cancer survivor, National Law Journal reports.

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