Plaintiff’s Ovarian Cancer A lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court by a woman naming Walgreens as a defendant charging that the talc she had purchased in their store had allegedly given her ovarian cancer.
In March 2017, litigation involving talcum powder, centered in the Missouri 22nd Circuit Court, upheld a $70 million talcum powder verdict against Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Internal J&J memos revealed the company was aware of research linking talcum powder to an increased risk of ovarian cancer for decades. Over 1,000 talcum powder-related lawsuits have been filed against J&J.
The plaintiff is a semi-professional and competitive athlete from Chicago who began routinely buying J&J’s baby powder in 2006 at Walgreens for use in the perineal area. From 1984 to 1989 she bought Shower-to-Shower for the same purpose. In 2015, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She underwent surgery followed by treatment.
The complaint states, “J&J has a dedicated office and team specifically devoted to assessing, analyzing and promoting product purchases from its baby product line at Walgreens.”
“From offices in Illinois, J&J and Walgreens jointly analyze, assess, and strategize the most meaningful methods of selling, promoting, and marketing its baby powder products. Moreover, J&J and Walgreens implement strategies to influence consumers’ purchase of J&J baby powder products from Walgreens, including through data analytics of customers’ purchases and loyalty and rewards programs.
“J&J and Walgreens jointly evaluate the products placed for sale and promotion in Walgreens’ stores, and thoroughly assess and discuss the safety, efficacy and suitability of products marketed and sold, including J&J baby powder products,” the complaint states.
Personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are actively reviewing potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been affected by adverse effects of talc-based products.
22 Studies Link Talc with Ovarian Cancer
Data has been provided since 1982 by approximately 22 epidemiologic studies about the connection between talc and ovarian cancer. Almost all of these studies have shown an elevated risk for ovarian cancer linked to genital talc use in women.
In 2004, a case-control study of nearly 1,400 women from 22 counties in Central California found a statistically significant 37 percent increased risk of epithelial ovarian cancer from women’s genital talc use and a 77 percent increased risk of serious invasive ovarian cancer from women’s genital talc use. Importantly, this study also studied women’s use of cornstarch powders as an alternative talc, and found no increased risk in ovarian cancer in women in the cornstarch group, further supporting the causal connection between genital talc use and ovarian cancer.
In June 2013, an analysis of over 18,000 women in eight case-control studies found a 20 percent to 30 percent increased risk of women developing epithelial ovarian cancer from genital powder use. The study concluded by stating, “Because there are few modifiable risk factors for ovarian cancer, avoidance of genital powders may be a possible strategy to reduce ovarian cancer incidence.”
The United States National Toxicology Program in 1993, published a study on the toxicity of non-asbestiform talc and discovered clear evidence of carcinogenic activity. Talc was found to be a carcinogen, with or without the presence of asbestos-like fibers.
On November 10, 1994, the Cancer Prevention Coalition wrote to then Johnson & Johnson CEO, Ralph Larson, informing his company that studies as far back as the 1960s “…show conclusively that the frequent use of talcum powder in the genital area poses a serious health risk of ovarian cancer.”
The letter cited a recent study by Dr. Bernard Harlow from Harvard Medical School confirming this fact and quoted a part of the study where Dr. Harlow and his colleagues advised against the use of talc in the female genital area.
The letter further said that 14,000 women per year die from ovarian cancer and that this type of cancer is very difficult to detect and has a low survival rate. The letter concluded by requesting that J&J withdraw talc products from the market because of the alternative of cornstarch powders, or at a minimum, place warning information on its talc-based body powders about the ovarian cancer risk they pose.
In 1996, the condom industry stopped dusting condoms with talc because of the growing health concerns.
In February 2006, the International Association for the Research of Cancer (IARC) part of the World Health Organization published a paper whereby they classified perineal use of talc-based body powder as a “Group 2B” human carcinogen.
Under the Hazardous Products Act and associated Controlled Products Regulations classified talc as a “D2A,” “very toxic,” “cancer causing” substance under its Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS). Asbestos is classified as “D2A” as well.
The plaintiff alleges that J&J and Walgreens failed to inform customers of a known health hazard associated with the use of the talc-based products and disseminated false, misleading, and biased information regarding the safety of talc-based products.