Johnson & Johnson now faces about a thousand lawsuits alleging a link between women’s talcum powder use and ovarian cancer.
Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder are major products for the company. For decades, J&J promoted talcum powder for feminine hygiene. Women were advised to dust their genitals with the powder after a bath or shower and to sprinkle powder on their underwear for personal freshness, according to Law Firm Newswire.
Many long-term talcum powder users have developed ovarian cancer. These women and family members of women who died of the disease have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson over the risks of talcum powder use. One such lawsuit was filed by a woman whose daughter, a long time talcum powder user, died of ovarian cancer. In the wrongful death lawsuit, the mother says her daughter was 43 years old when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had been using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder for over 23 years for feminine hygiene. The lawsuit alleges that many cases of ovarian cancer could have been averted if warning labels had been placed on Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products.
The American Cancer Society explains how talcum powder use might lead to ovarian cancer. When talcum powder is applied to the genital area, on sanitary napkins, or in the underwear or sanitary napkins, minute talc particles can migrate through the vagina and fallopian tubes into the ovaries and cause inflammation. Inflammation is thought to contribute to tumor formation.
Studies published since the 1970s have suggested a link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. The first scientific study to report a possible connection between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer was published in 1971, Bloomberg News 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. Despite indications of the ovarian cancer risk, Johnson & Johnson has not warned women about the danger of prolonged talcum powder use, though the company does warn parents not to let babies inhale Baby Powder because it can cause respiratory problems.
Two talcum powder lawsuits that went to trial this year resulted in jury awards of &72 million and $55 million. The $72 million went to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer, while the $55 million was awarded to a survivor.
Many of the pending talcum powder lawsuits have been centralized in the Missouri litigation, with additional cases consolidated in Atlantic County Superior Court in New Jersey.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says about 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually and the disease often has a poor prognosis because it is usually not diagnosed until after it has spread. About 14,000 women die from the disease each year. Early symptoms of ovarian cancer are often seen as ordinary menstrual or abdominal discomfort. There is currently no diagnostic test that would catch the disease early when it would be more treatable.