Injuries: If you suffered one of the following health effects after using talcum powder, you may have a claim for compensation:
Talcum powder has been linked to ovarian cancer by over four decades of medical research.
Did you or a loved one use talcum powder regularly and then get diagnosed with ovarian cancer? You may be entitled to substantial financial compensation. Contact our experienced product liability attorneys today for a free consultation.
It’s likely you’ve already seen baby powder cancer commercials on TV or heard them on the radio. If you think you may have a case, get in touch with our experienced legal team today for a free case review.
Talcum body powders have been considered a mainstay in infant care and personal hygiene throughout the world for over a century, ever since they were first produced in the late 1800s. Most consumers recognize talc as a major ingredient in Johnson’s Baby Powder, leading them to assume that talc products must be especially “gentle” and safe. In reality, many physicians, researchers, and even regulatory authorities have shown concern over the serious possible health risks posed by talc powder.
Dozens of medical studies published over the past 45 years have revealed a potential link between talcum powder applied to the female genital area and elevated ovarian cancer risks. The leading talc product manufacturer, healthcare conglomerate Johnson & Johnson, has publicly acknowledged that numerous medical studies conclude genital talc use may raise ovarian cancer risks by 30% or more, but dismisses this research as “inconclusive.” To this day, the company has yet to include cancer warnings on any of its talc product labels.
Now, around 4,000 talc powder lawsuits are pending in state and federal courts across the nation, filed by women diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer after years of applying the talcum powders made by well-established brands. These plaintiffs say that Johnson & Johnson, along with other talc industry giants, not only failed to warn consumers of risks but deliberately worked with one another to fight talc regulation at all costs – concealing the growing evidence of talc’s association with ovarian cancer.
Talc is a common silicate mineral noted for being exceptionally soft – in fact, it’s among the softest naturally-occurring substances on Earth, with a rating of 1 on the Mohs’ Hardness Scale. This property stems from talc’s easily-cleaved crystal structure, typically consisting of thin, sheet-like layers that are very loosely held together. You can read more about talc on the Industrial Minerals Association website.
Because of its softness, talc makes an excellent lubricant. It also readily absorbs oil, odors, and moisture. These characteristics make talc extremely useful in a variety of industries, such as ceramics, food, pharmaceuticals, and the manufacture of paper, rubber, and paint. However, the mineral is best known as the leading ingredient in baby powder, a product designed to prevent or alleviate diaper rash.
Johnson’s Baby Powder was first developed in the late 19th century by Dr. Frederick Kilmer, Johnson & Johnson’s director of scientific affairs at the time.
Back then, J&J’s main industry was producing surgical dressings and medicated plasters – plaster products mixed with medicinal compounds to treat minor ailments such as joint and muscle pain. These products were sold with an adhesive surface and a fabric backing, and consumers would press them directly onto their skin, much like modern bandages. In 1892, however, Johnson & Johnson began receiving letters from customers complaining of skin irritation after applying their plasters. Dr. Kilmer responded by sending talc powder to ease the redness and inflammation.
This solution was well-received, with some customers even informing Dr. Kilmer that they were using the powder while diapering their infants. J&J quickly decided to capitalize on the positive response and start up a new product line. In 1893, the company released Johnson’s Baby Powder, its first talcum product labeled for “toilet and nursery” use – metal tins containing a mixture of Italian talc, medicated plaster, and a subtle, distinctive perfume.
Baby powder soon became a ubiquitous household item, as it is today. With the aid of countless advertising campaigns, the product’s signature scent, in particular, became practically synonymous with babies and everything fresh, clean, and pure in the minds of many consumers.
This association also made talcum powder highly appealing to women for personal use, so J&J wasted no time in expanding its marketing strategy to target women specifically, employing ads and product slogans depicting the product as an essential part of feminine hygiene.
The marketing worked. Today, over 25% of American women report using talc as body powder or as a deodorant on their underwear or sanitary napkins – even though many physicians consider these practices to be purely cosmetic and utterly “unnecessary” in proper personal hygiene.
Over the last 45 years, evidence has been mounting. Numerous studies have found that women who use baby powder as a feminine hygiene product are more likely to develop this debilitating disease, with estimates of increased risk ranging from about 30% to over 300%.
Baby powder lawsuit TV commercials have, to some extent, alerted American consumers to these risks. However, the majority remain completely unaware and continue to use the product on their young children as well as themselves.
In the face of this growing body of research, Johnson & Johnson has maintained utter denial. The company has never released a warning about the potential risks of its Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower To Shower products. Likewise, warnings are conspicuously absent from the packaging for these body powders.
Now, thousands of ovarian cancer patients, along with their families and loved ones, say that apparent lack of warning is unconscionable. Four state court juries have already agreed. In a series of staggering verdicts, juries in Missouri and California have decided that Johnson & Johnson should be held accountable for hiding decades of medical evidence from the public. Women have already been awarded nearly $750 million in compensation.
With the litigation picking up speed, legal experts are urging ovarian cancer patients to contact an experienced attorney now. Thousands of other women may be eligible to pursue compensation.
After her cancer diagnosis, Berg had to undergo a complete hysterectomy, the New York Times reports, enduring months of discomfort, pain, and disability, both from the disease and a grueling chemotherapy regimen. Today, she describes the period as a “living hell.” All the while, she struggled to understand what could have possibly caused her to develop ovarian cancer. As far as she knew, she possessed none of the typical risk factors. She had no family history of ovarian, breast, or uterine cancer. She wasn’t a smoker, either. She’d always maintained a healthy weight and, as the mother of two healthy daughters, had no fertility issues (difficulties with pregnancy and childbirth are associated with higher ovarian cancer risk).
Finally, in an informational leaflet from her doctor, Berg hit upon an unexpected risk factor, one she unwittingly exposed herself to for years – baby powder. Ever since she was 18 years old, Berg had applied talcum powder, namely Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower To Shower, to her perineum every day for personal hygiene. To Berg, along with countless other women the world over, this daily routine seemed perfectly normal and safe. As she describes it, using baby powder was “just like brushing my teeth.” Decades later, she was shocked and horrified to discover that such a simple, common application for a ubiquitous hygiene product may actually cause a deadly cancer.
As Berg searched online for more information about talc powder and its association with ovarian cancer, it became clear that she was far from the only one left in the dark about the potential risks of talc in feminine hygiene. Her shock soon turned to outrage. Apart from studies and discussions published in medical journals, which seemed to have “barely registered with the general public,” there were virtually no warnings about the potential risks of using talc powder. In fact, there was nothing out there to alert women to what she considers a serious threat to health and well-being.
A major upheaval in the booming talc product industry occurred in the early 1970s, when regulatory authorities, including the Environmental Protection Agency, enacted a series of bans on asbestos, a category of minerals now known to cause lung cancer and other serious respiratory conditions.
Before that time, it was common for commercial talcum powder to contain some level of asbestos since talc mining sites are often found in close proximity to asbestos deposits. the carcinogenic properties of asbestos weren’t firmly established by researchers until around the late 1960s. But once the health risks of asbestos were confirmed, the FDA proposed regulations to prohibit asbestos-contaminated cosmetic talc in 1972, according to researchers at Princeton University. Talc companies started working to eliminate asbestos from their products.
Some manufacturers chose to stop using talc completely, changing the main ingredient in their baby and body powders to cornstarch. Others, like Johnson & Johnson, chose to continue using talc but demanded stricter mining standards from their talc suppliers and improved quality control measures to guard against asbestos contamination. Today, talc powder companies claim that their products are completely free of asbestos, although, as reporters at FairWarning.com have noted, recent studies and court verdicts suggest this may not always be the case.
Even during the rise of the asbestos controversy, researchers were already uncovering evidence suggesting that talc itself could be carcinogenic.
In 1971, scientists from Wales published a study in which ovarian and cervical tumors were examined under a microscope. Talc particles were found “deeply embedded” within the tissues from the majority of the samples, 10 out of a total of 13.
In pondering this result, the study’s lead author W.J. Henderson pointedly mentioned talc’s “close association” with asbestos. Indeed, asbestos, a group of 6 minerals that all share the ability to form long, extremely thin fibers, are silicate compounds, just like talc. Chrysotile, one of the more common types of asbestos, is even classified in the phyllosilicates – the same silicate subgroup that talc belongs to.
A 1982 study performed by Dr. Daniel Cramer and his team of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that women with regular genital exposure to talcum powder, either through direct application of the powder to the perineum or through talc-dusted sanitary napkins, were twice as likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who didn’t use talc. Women who routinely experienced both types of exposure were found to have an ovarian cancer risk three times higher than those with no history of genital talc use.
Cramer, like Henderson before him, also commented on talc’s chemical similarity to asbestos, pointing out that although talc’s structure is usually “plate-like” in nature, it sometimes takes the form of asbestos-like bundles of fibers.
Many women express utter shock upon learning about research on the association between talc and ovarian cancer. Talc products, such as baby and body powders, have been (and still are) promoted as safe and “gentle” by leading manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson.
Deane Berg, the first woman to file a talcum powder lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, speaks in interviews about the moment she discovered that talc may be an ovarian cancer risk factor. Prior to that time, she’d used talc for feminine hygiene as a comforting daily ritual—she’d never imagined that her Johnson’s Baby Powder could possibly harbor serious risks. Today, Berg is just one among thousands of women who have chosen to file suit against Johnson & Johnson over their own cases of ovarian cancer.
Five recent talc lawsuit verdicts, in which juries elected to award millions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs, are an encouraging legal development for talc powder victims.
Currently, more than 4,000 talcum lawsuits filed by cancer patients and their families are pending in courts across the country. These talc lawsuits are so numerous that courts have been consolidating them at the local and state level, by allowing them to proceed through pre-trial procedures together. This is done in cases with significant similarities, in order to save precious court time and resources. Many of the talc lawsuits are filed against the same set of defendants, namely, Johnson & Johnson and its talc suppliers, and also contain a number of identical allegations against these companies.
Deane Berg filed the very first talcum powder lawsuit back in 2009. Berg habitually used talc powder for feminine hygiene purposes for nearly all of her adult life. But in 2006, after being diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, she came across a talc powder commercial from a personal injury law firm that discussed the link between ovarian cancer and genital talc use.
Outraged, Berg filed suit against Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc, accusing the companies of failing to warn consumers of the serious possible health risks of their products.
After surviving Johnson & Johnson’s multiple attempts to secure an outright dismissal from the court, Berg’s lawsuit went to trial in 2013. Before the judge and jury, Berg, along with her lawyers and expert witnesses, described:
Ultimately, the South Dakota jury decided that J&J was indeed liable for negligence and failure to warn consumers. However, the jury decided against awarding compensation to Berg for the pain, suffering, and considerable medical expenses caused by her ovarian cancer. Berg attempted to appeal this decision, but the judge denied the appeal, saying that Berg had already chosen to accept the jury’s decision.
Though disappointed by the jury’s withholding of compensation, Berg stands by her decision to file suit. In an interview with the New York Post, she explained that Johnson & Johnson had actually come to her before the trial and offered a hefty settlement. But Berg would only receive the settlement if she agreed to withdraw her lawsuit and keep quiet about her accusations, which was something that she couldn’t do in good conscience. For Berg, it was “never about the money”—she mainly filed her case to help warn other women of the potential risks of using baby powder in feminine hygiene.
Berg’s attempt to “blow the whistle” on talcum powder’s potential risks was successful. Three years after her lawsuit reached its strange conclusion, thousands of other women have filed lawsuits, hoping to hold Johnson & Johnson accountable for what they say is an utter failure to alert consumers to a serious health risk. State court juries have agreed. To date, four juries in St. Louis, Missouri and one jury in California have chosen to award ovarian cancer patients and their families over $700 million in compensation.
Thankfully, after about a year of intensive treatment, Berg’s cancer went into remission, and she felt strong enough to take legal action. In December 2009, she filed suit against Johnson & Johnson, as well the company’s talc suppliers. It was the first lawsuit that sought to hold Johnson & Johnson responsible for failing to add warnings about ovarian cancer on talcum powder products.
Johnson & Johnson put up a fight, trying on multiple occasions to have Berg’s suit thrown out of court. Thankfully, the company’s attempts were unsuccessful. Berg’s case finally went to trial in 2013. In a federal court in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Berg’s hometown, she and her attorneys laid out the evidence, relying on independent medical experts who explained more than 40 years of research on the risks of talcum powder to the jurors. Those jurors were convinced but returned a head-scratching verdict. As Fair Warning describes, the federal jury found Johnson & Johnson liable for concealing the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer but didn’t award Berg any damages.
South Dakota is extremely conservative and juries in the state aren’t friendly to plaintiffs. That’s why product liability attorneys weren’t disappointed by the jurors’ decision. They were encouraged since the jury had seen fit to deem Johnson & Johnson negligent. Berg’s case sparked a wave of litigation, as hundreds of ovarian cancer patients filed their own lawsuits against the multinational consumer product company.
Legal experts believe that thousands of women have yet to step forward and join the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder litigation. Our experienced talc attorneys can help.
If you or a loved one developed ovarian cancer after using talcum powder for years, contact The Product Lawyers today for a free consultation. Our attorneys have already helped numerous people who were injured by consumer products pursue justice and financial compensation – all on a contingency-fee-basis. Our clients never pay us anything until we secure compensation in their cases. Just call today to learn more about your rights and options at no charge and no obligation.
American Cancer Society: Talcum Powder and Cancer
Mayo Clinic: Talc (Intrapleural Route)