Lawsuits centering on the link between talcum powder and cancer—including ovarian cancer—have been making headlines thanks to jury verdicts in the millions and even billions of dollars. The lawsuits revolve around the chilling revelation that the use of talcum powder presents a serious risk of cancer, specifically ovarian and lung cancers.
Many of these lawsuits allege that Johnson & Johnson, which puts talcum powder in both its Johnson's Baby Powder and its Shower to Shower body powder for adults, for decades withheld scientific studies exposing the link between talcum powder use and cancer. This choice to not inform the public has compounded the punitive damages—financial payments intended to punish bad corporate behavior—that courts are handing down to the company. Cases are actively being tried and settled, with developments continuing.
If you have ovarian cancer or another form of cancer and suspect talcum powder may be to blame, our attorneys can provide you with the latest information. We have gathered answers to some frequently asked questions about talc, cancer and litigation below.
If you'd like more information, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC can help you understand your rights and weigh your chances for success if you're considering a talcum powder lawsuit. Contact us today to arrange a free consultation with our talcum powder attorneys. We serve clients nationally.
Talcum Powder Lawsuit FAQ's
Why are Women at Risk for Developing Cancer After Using Talc Products?
Women are at risk for developing ovarian cancer after talc products because of both the substance and the way it has been marketed and used. Talc is a naturally occurring mineral that manufacturers use in baby powder, adult cosmetics, cleaning supplies, and more. Many of these products are marketed to women. Marketing slogans have actively pushed talc's use to control sweating, moisture, and odor in adult women's bodies, saying "you sweat in more places than just your underarms."
One reason talc use may lead to ovarian cancer is it was marketed and used in women's genital areas. Talcum powder can eliminate dampness and lessen friction, so women have used it directly on their skin, underwear, and genital areas to reduce moisture, chafing, and odors. According to the American Cancer Society, it's been suggested that using the powder near the vagina permits it to enter the body and travel to the ovaries.
Another reason talc may lead to cancer is that it has been contaminated with asbestos—a known carcinogen—at least some of the time. Talc frequently occurs in nature with asbestos. Starting in the 1970s, research started finding a link between talc and asbestos. In the 1971 medical paper "Talc and Carcinoma of the Ovary and Cervix," researchers reported finding talc remnants deep within malignant tumors. As early as 1994 cancer patients' rights organizations explicitly lodged complaints about the cancer and talcum powder connection. Mining companies have listed cancer warnings on talc safety data sheets since 2006.
That's why talc can also cause lung cancer—specifically, mesothelioma, a kind of lung cancer that affects the linings between the organs of the torso. Scientists believe that's because of the asbestos contamination in the talc. If the powder is inhaled—as it might be for a regular user of body powder or baby powder—those asbestos particles can be trapped in the lungs.
Despite repeated reassurances that talc was asbestos-free, there's evidence that cosmetics company Johnson & Johnson—one of the largest producers of talc products—continued finding asbestos in its talcum powder products but failed to disclose those findings to the public. Internal documentation suggests it knew about the ovarian cancer link as early as 1997. Nonetheless, the company continued to sell its products without any sort of warning to consumers.
What are the Symptoms & Treatment Options for Ovarian Cancer?
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be subtle or confused with symptoms of other, less serious illnesses. Especially in the initial stages, there may be few or no signs of its advancement. However, signs do become more apparent as it builds, especially after the cancer spreads through the body in a process called metastasizing.
Symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Frequent urination
- Appetite loss
- Pelvic pain
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling in the abdomen, pelvis, or adjacent areas of the body.
- Fluctuations in bowel habits
- Rapid or significant weight loss
There is no standard screening for ovarian cancer. Doctors rely on a combination of tests that include a pelvic exam, a transvaginal ultrasound, a blood test, CT scan, and surgery to obtain biopsy tissue. Doctors who suspect ovarian cancer will generally confirm it by taking a biopsy—removing some of your bodily tissue so they can examine it closely.
If you've been diagnosed with any stage of ovarian cancer, you may be offered treatment options including chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy. Which ones you're offered may depend on your stage of the disease and other health factors.
The most chosen treatment is surgery to remove the cancerous tissue, or in some cases the entire reproductive system. How much gets removed depends on how advanced the cancer is—something surgery can reveal—and the age of the patient. Normally, a gynecologic oncologist, a doctor who specializes in cancers of the female reproductive system, performs the surgery.
Ovarian cancer patients may also be given chemotherapy, in which doctors administer mild poisons to prevent the cancer cells from growing. With ovarian cancer, you take these drugs periodically for about a month and may repeat this process a handful of times, depending on your progress. The exact amount and kind of drugs you take depends on your circumstances and your doctor's opinions.
In addition to, or instead of, one of the above treatments, doctors may also prescribe hormone therapy or radiation. Radiation is not commonly used for ovarian cancer, but its goal is to kill cancer cells with X-rays. Hormone therapy triggers or suppresses hormones in the body in ways that can fight the cancer. In addition, you may be offered targeted therapies, which uses your body's prior response to chemotherapy to narrowly direct further treatment. Whether any of these are options may depend on your circumstances and your doctor.
Early detection is an important factor in ovarian cancer survival rates. Outcomes vary widely and depend on whether the patient responds well to treatment.
Are There Medical Studies Showing a Connection Between Talcum Powder Exposure and Cancer?
Yes, there are multiple medical studies that show a connection between cancer and talcum powder exposure. Statistically, one in fifty women, or 2%, develop ovarian cancer—but studies show that using talcum powder products might heighten that risk to 25% or even 30%.
The American Cancer Society says it's generally accepted that talc with asbestos can cause lung cancer—specifically, mesothelioma, a rare lung cancer caused only by asbestos exposure. Talcum powder, being a very fine powder, can be inhaled. Any asbestos contaminating the product can be inhaled with it. Those asbestos particles are so small that they can become trapped in the body and cause irritation that eventually creates mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma takes decades to show any symptoms, and it's often not detected until it's at an advanced stage that is harder to treat. A diagnosis can be devastating.
Perhaps the most convincing evidence that talc is related to ovarian cancer came from two case-control studies from 2016, The African American Cancer Epidemiology Study (AACES) and The New England Ovarian Cancer Study. Comparing nearly 600 African-American women having ovarian cancer with over 700 who weren't afflicted, the African American Cancer Epidemiology Study found that women who had used talc in their genital area were 44% more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, increasing their lifetime risk from 1.3% to a 2%.
A sad study footnote indicated that women with a respiratory condition like asthma were at a slightly more elevated risk. Its authors attribute that to the body's ability to react and develop inflammation—a condition known to spur cancer cell growth.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the New England Ovarian Cancer Study studied over 2,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. They were compared with over 1,500 women who had not been diagnosed with cancer. Women who had used talc in their genital or other body areas were about 33% more likely than non-users to develop ovarian cancer. The study also found an additional risk factor: Women who were sterilized before menopause (through hysterectomy or tubal ligation), or who took hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms, were more likely to develop ovarian cancer than talc users alone.
To date, there have been almost two dozen studies suggesting a relationship between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. There have also been surveys of studies, which collect the results from multiple individual medical studies to see if there is a clear trend within those studies. All of these have found a strong increase in cancer risk for people who used talcum powder anywhere on their bodies.
Why are People Suing Over Ovarian Cancer and Mesothelioma?
People are suing over ovarian cancer and mesothelioma because for decades, Johnson & Johnson and other talc product makers have denied any link between cancer and their products. In recent years, however, a wealth of research has shown a connection.
The lawsuits generally also allege that Johnson & Johnson has known about this link since 1982, but failed to warn customers about the risks. Dr. Daniel Cramer, a Harvard epidemiologist, discovered the link between talcum powder and cancer in a study he conducted in 1982. When he released the results, Johnson & Johnson contacted him to discuss his observations and evidence. He suggested they take talcum powder products off the market.
Twenty-one additional studies over three more decades supported his conclusions, but Johnson & Johnson continued to market their products without a warning. That decision has led to large punitive damages awards to people who developed cancer from talc exposure.
What is the Status of Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Litigation?
Talcum powder ovarian cancer litigation is an active area of the law. Lawsuits alleging a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer—and that manufacturers withheld information about that link—have been making headlines, thanks to jury verdicts in the millions and even billions of dollars.
According to CNBC, Johnson & Johnson faced roughly 14,000 lawsuits as of July of 2019 alleging that its products caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of lung cancer. The network says 11,000 of those cases have been consolidated into one case being heard as "multidistrict litigation" in New Jersey federal court.
There are also individual cases that have not been consolidated. According to an October 2019 report from the New York Times, Johnson & Johnson has lost at least 14 of those, including one that came with an award of $4.7 billion to the plaintiffs. One of those was Olson v. Brenntag, in which Donna Olson and her husband argued that Johnson & Johnson powder products caused Olson's mesothelioma, a rare lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. A New York jury ultimately awarded them $325 million. Olson was too sick to attend, having been forced to remove one of her lungs.
Another victory came in Ingham v. Johnson & Johnson, which focused specifically on asbestos exposure leading to ovarian cancer. The trial, which lasted six weeks, ended in 2018 with a jury verdict of more than $4.6 billion—$25 million for each of the families, including some that had already lost loved ones to ovarian cancer.
This trial was remarkable not just for the huge award, but for the way the jurors arrived at that dollar amount. The jury was motivated to pursue punitive damages in an amount that would send a message. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "They multiplied the roughly $70 million Johnson & Johnson earned selling baby powder in a recent year by the 43 years it's been since the company claimed the baby powder did not contain asbestos".
In March 2019, Johnson & Johnson reached a series of settlements with mesothelioma victims in Oklahoma, California and New York. In the Oklahoma case, the company offered a settlement after the trial, while the jury was still deliberating. A 36-year-old plaintiff argued that she'd gotten cancer after using the product since childhood. In New York, Johnson & Johnson settled the case a month before it went to trial.
The move to settle marks a shift in strategy for Johnson & Johnson in their mesothelioma and ovarian cancer cases. The company had historically been reluctant to settle. But these cases indicate a change. As a Bloomberg report points out, settling could be a way for the company to cut its losses. "According to Jean Eggen, a Widener University law professor, ‘It looks like they have decided to cut their losses in some cases and move on.'" That might mean faster resolution for the over 13,000 cases from mesothelioma and ovarian cancer victims that Johnson & Johnson faces for their talcum powder products.
Can I Join the Pending Talcum Powder Lawsuits?
Yes, you can join the pending talcum powder lawsuits. Many people have joined lawsuits or filed their own after being diagnosed with cancer that might have been caused by the use of talcum powder products. These lawsuits are typically brought against the manufacturers, producers, and distributors of talcum-powder products. Whether you have a claim depends on your history of using the product and the type of harm you suffered.
So far, Johnson & Johnson has been named in almost all of the cases. Typically, the claim has been that it did not properly or adequately warn its customers of the risk of ovarian cancer or other threats when using its products. It is interesting to note that these class actions were kicked off after an individual in South Dakota won a private negligence case against Johnson & Johnson using a similar argument.
Many of those lawsuits are class-action lawsuits, in which many people who have the same complaint against the same person or company join together to pursue that complaint in court. However, not all of them bring the action. Instead, a representative of the group prosecutes the case for the good of the entire class against the defendant(s). Whether it's best for you to join a class-action lawsuit or file your own is a question you should discuss with an experienced lawyer.
What Type of Compensation can be Recovered via a Talcum Powder Lawsuit?
Women impacted by ovarian cancer related to talcum powder use, may recover the following types of economic and non-economic damages by filing a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. Some of these damages include:
- Past and future medical expenses: This includes hospitalization, physician visits, medication and travel expenses for treatment.
- Lost wages: If your medical condition prevents you from working, you can recover you past and future lost wages.
- Pain & suffering: The law allows people who have experienced pain and suffering related to their medical condition to recover compensation based on the individual impact.
- Wrongful death: The family of a woman who passed away from ovarian cancer, can recover compensation for the loss of emotional and financial support. Additionally, the family can recover funeral and burial expenses.
How Long do I Have to File a Talc Cancer Lawsuit?
How long you have to file a talc cancer lawsuit depends on your circumstances. All states have deadlines to sue, which are called statutes of limitations in the law. These prohibit you from bringing an action many years after your injury, in recognition of the reality that evidence and witnesses are harder to find after many years.
Different states have different deadlines for suing, and they may also set different deadlines for different kinds of cases. For injuries in Illinois that might lead to a talc cancer lawsuit, the rule is that you have two years from when you were injured to file your claim.
Are there any Settlements of Talcum Powder Cancer Cases?
At this time there are no settlement offers to members of the pending litigation. However, there have been some reported offers to settle individual claims. As more information regarding talc ovarian cancer cases develops, we will report back.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Talcum Powder Attorney?
There are no upfront fees to hire an attorney to represent you or your family in a talcum powder lawsuit. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC handles all talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits on a contingency fee basis, meaning we only receive a fee for our services when we are successful in obtaining a recovery on your behalf.
We're Accepting Talcum Powder Claims on Behalf of Individuals and Families
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is currently handling talcum powder lawsuits on behalf of women and their families from across the United States.
If you or a loved one has developed ovarian cancer while using Johnson & Johnson baby powder or Shower to Shower, contact us today to learn more about your legal options and whether it would be in your best interests to join the class action lawsuit initiated against that company.
Our Chicago-based, medical product liability attorneys have decades of experience handling these types of cases and have helped thousands of clients receive fair compensation.
Our services are free of charge if we're unable to do the same for you.
Visit our Talcum Powder FAQs for a comprehensive explanation of the medical and legal concepts involved with these cases.