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.
If you have ovarian or other form of cancer and suspect talcum powder may be to blame, our attorneys can provide you with the latest 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. Please see the navigation below to address your questions regarding this emerging area of litigation.
Johnson & Johnson withheld scientific studies exposing the risk of talcum powder use for decades. This has compounded the punitive damages courts are handing down to the company. Cases are actively being tried and settled, with ongoing developments in this story continuing.
- Do You Have a Talcum Powder Lawsuit?
- What’s the Latest Information on Talcum Powder Lawsuits?
- Why are People Suing Over Ovarian Cancer and Mesothelioma?
- What’s the History of Talcum Powder use and its Dangers?
- Is There a Link Between Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer?
- How is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed and Treated? What’s the Prognosis?
- How do People use Talcum Powder Products?
After reviewing this material, we invite you to contact us at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC to discuss your legal rights and options related to talcum powder and cancer lawsuits and claims, especially as they relate to ovarian cancer.
Do You Have a Talcum Powder Lawsuit?
You might, depending on your history of using the product and the type of harm you suffered. Two class action lawsuits brought against Johnson & Johnson suggest that the pharmaceutical giant was privy to a link between its talcum powder products and the development of ovarian cancer in women for decades. The first case sets a foreboding tone for the company, where a jury awarded over $72 million to the plaintiff.
If you’re a woman who has developed ovarian cancer, or you have lost a loved one due to the disease, contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers to learn more about how this first case and those that follow will impact your rights. Our talcum powder lawsuit attorneys are dedicated to helping you and your family obtain the compensation you deserve.
What’s the Latest Information on Talcum Powder Lawsuits?
Talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson are gaining momentum through courts across the country. The company is seeing judgments that include punitive damages in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
With thousands of victims of ovarian and other cancers coming forward, many cases against Johnson & Johnson are still pending, or are preparing to go to trial. As cases continue to make headlines for record-setting settlements, new ones are continually being brought.
Here are some recent court actions:A Landmark St. Louis Settlement in the Billions
In a 2018 case that made news across the nation, a jury in St. Louis awarded a group of more than 20 plaintiffs $500 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages. Each family that sued was awarded $25 million, including those who sued on behalf of relatives who had died.
The case, Ingham v. Johnson & Johnson, focused specifically on the asbestos that the female cancer patients were exposed to because of their use of talcum powder. The trial, which lasted six weeks, presented 22 ovarian cancer cases from 18 states.
This trial was remarkable not just for the huge award, but for the way the award was arrived at by the jurors. The jury was motivated to pursue punitive damages in an amount that would send a message. According to newspaper St. Louis Today, “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”.
The trial brought claims from families of the victims and victims alike. Several of the women are deceased, and family members carried on their lawsuits.Johnson & Johnson New York Mesothelioma Trials
In New York state, Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay after litigation over cases of mesothelioma related to talcum powder use. The rare cancer affects the lungs and has long been linked to talcum powder use.
In June 2019, a jury in New York ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $300 million in punitive damages to Donna Olson and her husband. The couple was also awarded $25 million in compensatory damages. Their case centered on the asbestos fibers once found in talc. Those fibers are known carcinogens that cause mesothelioma as well as other cancers.
Johnson & Johnson was found to be negligent. The company did not warn consumers of the known risks related to their talcum product. Those risks included the heightened risk of cancer.Johnson & Johnson Mesothelioma Settlements
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, this could be a way for the company to cut their 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.
Why are People Suing Over Ovarian Cancer and Mesothelioma?
Research suggests that talcum powder use can put women at elevated risk for ovarian cancer. For instance, a 2013 Cancer Prevention Research study reported that “exposure [to talc] associated with small-to-moderate increases in risk of most histologic subtypes of epithelial ovarian cancer.” Johnson & Johnson has known about this link since 1982. But they failed to warn customers about the risks.
Like asbestos, talcum powder can travel into the lungs and become lodged within, resulting in the development of scar tissue and tumors that spread throughout the lung (mesothelioma). The mechanism by which talcum powder causes ovarian cancer is similar, except women are far less likely to notice the symptoms. Talc particles can silently become lodged in the ovaries, causing abnormal cells to begin to form. When this occurs, people experience little discomfort. The presence of a tumor is difficult to detect visibly and by touch. By the time a mass is noticed or the patient notices discomfort, the cancer cells have had the opportunity to metastasize, or move to other areas of the body.
Dr. 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. 21 additional studies over three more decades supported his conclusions, but Johnson & Johnson continued to market their products without so much as warning consumers.
The company’s ill-founded decision has led to dramatic punitive damages it’s been forced to pay. Meanwhile, consumers continue to become unwitting victims of the company’s negligence.
What’s the History of Talcum Powder use and its Dangers?
Talc, a ground mineral that forms talcum powder, differs from most minerals in its velvety softness. That’s what has made it a coveted beauty product and an appealing material for use with babies and children. Measuring hardness, talc has the lowest rating on the Mohs’ scale used in assessing minerals.
Unfortunately, during mining, it may become contaminated with asbestos. Indeed, the effects of talcum powder exposure are often compared to those of asbestos, resulting in ovarian and other forms of cancer.
Talc was first reported as a serious carcinogen as far back as 1971. In the 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. Despite this, Johnson & Johnson continued selling its talcum powder products.
Choosing to remain silent, its internal documentation suggests it knew about the ovarian cancer link as early as 1997. And to this day the company’s products—including Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, Shower to Shower Original, and Shower to Shower Sport—do not bear any warnings.
Is There a Link Between Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer?
Many newspapers in the US have reported on the link between talcum powder use and disease—especially ovarian and lung cancer.
The National Center for Health Research published a sweeping report linking talcum powder use to the development of ovarian cancer. It surveyed dozens of studies that looked at the health of thousands of women. They showed that those who have used talcum powder are 30% more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer than those who haven’t used it. Adhering to rigorous research standards, it argues the evidence is strong.
But research that yielded the most convincing evidence were two case-control studies from 2016, The African American Cancer Epidemiology Study (AACES) and The New England Ovarian Cancer Study:
- The African American Cancer Epidemiology Study (AACES)
Comparing nearly 600 African-American women having ovarian cancer with over 700 who weren’t afflicted, AACES found that those who had used talc anywhere in their body were “significantly more likely to have been diagnosed” with ovarian cancer.
Women who had used it in their genital area were 44% more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. By using talc—the basis of talcum powder—they had increased from a 1.3% to a 2% lifetime risk. Those numbers are dramatic, especially given the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis.
A sad study footnote indicated that women having a respiratory condition such as asthma were at a slightly more elevated risk. Its authors believe that is attributable to the body’s ability to react and develop inflammation—a condition known to potentially spur cancer cell growth.The New England Ovarian Cancer Study
Funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers from Boston’s prestigious Brigham and Women’s Hospital studied over 2,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. They were compared with over 1,500 women who had not been diagnosed with cancer. Study participants had used Johnson’s baby powder or its Shower to Shower product.
Women who used talc in their genital or other body areas were “significantly more likely to be diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer.” The final findings were that talc users were about 33% more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
And it 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.
How is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed and Treated? What’s the Prognosis?
Nearly 21,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. Almost 14,000 die annually from the disease.
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.
Once a patient has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, they’re confronted with a variety of treatment options that may depend on the stage (from early stage 1 to late stage 4). They may have surgery to remove one or both of the ovaries, or both ovaries and the uterus.
After surgery (or at times before), a patient may be treated with chemotherapy. It may be injected, taken through an IV, or swallowed in pill form.
Targeted therapy is an active research area and can be attempted upon recurrence. Here, doctors may use how their patient reacted to chemotherapy to direct how the treatment targets individual cancer cells.
Early detection is an important factor in ovarian cancer survival rates. According to the American Cancer Society:
Invasive Epithelial Ovarian Cancer
SEER stage 5-year relative survival rate Localized 92% Regional 75% Distant 30% All SEER stages combined 47%
Ovarian Stromal Tumors
SEER stage 5-year relative survival rate Localized 99% Regional 89% Distant 61% All SEER stages combined 89%
Germ-Cell Ovary Tumors
SEER stage 5-year relative survival rate Localized 98% Regional 95% Distant 75% All SEER stages combined 93%
Fallopian Tube Cancer
SEER stage 5-year relative survival rate Localized 91% Regional 57% Distant 47% All SEER stages combined 60%
The prognosis is harder to predict for those treated using targeted therapies. Outcomes depend on whether the patient responds well to treatment and can vary widely.
How do People use Talcum Powder Products?
Most people associate talcum powder with baby powder. But talc is a surprisingly diverse material. It has applications in ceramics, plastic manufacturing, the food industry, and paper making. It is also added to lubricating oils to reduce friction. It can absorb great amounts of moisture to keep compounds soft and prevent caking. Many everyday products, even some foods, contain talc.
Common products that use talc-based ingredients include:
- Eyeliners and mascara — since talc is a great anticaking agent, it can prevent clumping and maintain a smooth look. It is unclear whether talc poses a risk when used over the eyes.
- Deodorants — odor results when bacteria feed on our sweat. That’s why moisture control is an important aspect of deodorant products. Some deodorants use talc to keep the underarms dry, and the talc can also aid in comfort.
- Baby powder — for decades, talcum powder has been marketed to mothers to keep newborn children dry and to prevent or treat diaper rash. Baby powder can be similarly used for adults to keep their skin dry and smooth. Doctors have advised mothers against the use of talcum powders because the particles are easily inhaled by children and can cause respiratory problems.
- Hygienic products — Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower product line is specifically marketed for feminine hygiene to control both moisture and odor in the genital area. Marketing slogans make light of this by saying that “you sweat in more places than just your underarms” and actively suggest that the products be used in the genital area.
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.
This webpage was prepared and updated by attorney Jonathan Rosenfeld on October 3, 2019.