A Los Angeles jury just awarded a woman $417 million in damages after she suffered from ovarian cancer as a result of using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder on her perineum for decades.
According to the New York Times, “Eva Echeverria, 63, of East Los Angeles is one of thousands of women who have sued the consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson claiming baby powder caused their disease, pointing to studies linking talc to cancer that date to 1971, when scientists in Wales discovered particles of talc embedded in ovarian and cervical tumors.”
Talc is a mineral clay that has magnesium and silicone in it, but it can also have asbestos. According to the American Cancer Society, “All talcum products used in homes in the United States have been asbestos-free since the 1970s.” Which is good news since talc powder is used in women’s cosmetics, and on the skin to reduce friction. Some women use talc powders on their sanitary napkins to reduce odor and moisture.
For years there have been claims that there is a link between ovarian cancer and talc powder, but scientists seem to be divided on this. The New York Times pointed out that “Though numerous studies have linked genital talc use to ovarian cancer, the research findings have not been consistent. They consist mostly of epidemiological or population studies, which cannot conclusively prove a cause-and-effect relationship between an exposure and later development of cancer.” But this didn’t stop a jury in LA from awarding a woman $417 million in damages.
The medical and scientific evidence showing a link between Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder has been strong enough for several other women to win sizable awards too. This past May a woman in Virgina was awarded $110 million, another woman was awarded $72 million even though she had died a week before the verdict, and another person was awarded $55 million.
The litigation has been so rough on Johnson Johnson that the company has apparently tried to take advantage of a Supreme Court decision “limiting where injury lawsuits can be filed to fight off claims it failed to warn women that talcum powder could cause ovarian cancer.” With more than 5,950 women suing the company, the company stands to lose a lot.
With all the shade being thrown at talc it should be noted that talc powders that contain cornstarch instead of talc mineral does not cause cancer and is not considered a carcinogen. Someone should tell Johnson & Johson this.