Talcum, Baby Powder & Ovarian Cancer

When you think of Johnson & Johnson's baby powder, you probably envision endearing commercials where loving moms confidently dust the bottoms of cooing infants with the same trusted baby powder your mother may have used on you. Since the 1800s, diligent mothers have used baby powder for diaper rash, chafing, even feminine hygiene.

If you were around in the 1980s and 1990s you might even recall Johnson & Johnson's long-running jingle: "Have you had your sprinkle today?"

Jacqueline Fox had her sprinkle a day – for 35 years. She subsequently developed ovarian cancer and sued Johnson & Johnson.

So did Gloria Ristesund and Lois Slemp, both of whom used baby powder and Shower to Shower for decades.

In a 2016 landmark ruling against the cosmetics giant, a St. Louis jury awarded Ms. Fox an unprecedented $72 million. The evidence was so overwhelmingly damaging to Johnson & Johnson that the jury awarded Ms. Fox several times over the amount Ms. Fox's attorneys sued for.

Unfortunately, Ms. Fox died from her cancer just four months before the trial ended. She was 62. The jury awarded her $10 million in actual damages and, as a punishment to Johnson & Johnson, $1 million for each year of Ms. Fox's life prior to succumbing to the cancer.

Just two months after the Fox verdict, a jury awarded Gloria Ristesund $55 million. (Her cancer is in remission.)

The largest settlement so far was to Lois Slemp. In May 2017, a jury awarded her $110 million after her ovarian cancer spread to her liver.

Johnson & Johnson is facing its own cancer of sorts as litigation spreads to 2,400 lawsuits – and counting.

If you or a loved one has ovarian cancer and are concerned about whether talcum powder – specifically baby powder or Shower to Shower – may have played a role in your disease, contact us immediately.

Are Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Toxic?

While the public knows talcum powder as a refreshing, drying, cosmetic, and comforting product for the body, Johnson & Johnson knew talc was a carcinogen since the early 1980s – perhaps even earlier.

Thirty years of internal company memos and documents prove they knew it could cause ovarian cancer. The talc mining companies knew it, as they stamped "carcinogen" on each and every talc container. Cancer researchers knew it. Research scientists knew it. And each of these groups repeatedly warned Johnson & Johnson of the potential for ovarian cancer to develop as a result of using talc in its products. One of the company's own medical consultants warned in 1997 against "denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary," warning of possible litigation similar in scale to that of the tobacco industry.

Some even suggested replacing talc with cornstarch, which isn't harmful. But these warnings and suggestions fell on deaf corporate ears. Instead of heeding them, Johnson & Johnson did nothing except hide the evidence from the public and the FDA!

They even refused to add a warning label to the products, as some had strongly urged.

Worse, the company stepped up their marketing efforts in the 1980s, specifically targeting African Americans and Hispanics, since those two groups used these products most often. Ms. Fox was African American (and incidentally, a cousin to Rosa Parks).

With this latest $72 million landmark verdict, the company seems to be at the threshold of their comeuppance.

At least 1,200 more ovarian cancer victims nationwide are suing, claiming the company failed to warn them, misrepresented the products, and hid evidence that could have prevented their "holy hell," as one cancer victim described her ordeal.

It's too little too late, however, for the estimated 1,500 to 2,000 women who will die each year of ovarian cancer as a direct result of talc having migrated to their ovaries.

What is Talc?

Talc is a soft mineral mined from the ground. It has many and varied uses – manufacturing for paints, paper, plastic, rubber, and ceramic materials, such as countertops. It's also used as a capsule and pill filler. And, of course, cosmetics and "personal hygiene."

Longstanding Science on the Link Between Talc and Ovarian Cancer

Since 1982, a number of studies in the U.S. have suggested an increased risk for ovarian cancer when using talc (Shower to Shower or baby powder) in the genital area. (Non-U.S. studies date back further.) Early on, Johnson & Johnson insisted the presumption was flawed because it defied the law of gravity. They claimed talc could not migrate all the way up the fallopian tubes and into the ovaries. But recent evidence of talc particles found in Ms. Fox's cancerous ovarian tissue showed that talc can and does migrate.

A long-term study linking talc to ovarian cancer was published in December 2015, coauthored by Dr. Daniel Cramer, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston who is a respected researcher in this field. Dr. Cramer testified in the Fox trial that this long-term metadata study suggested ovarian cancer risk increases with frequency and duration of use:

  • Doubling the risk if talc was used for 7 years
  • Tripling the risk with 20-year usage
  • The risk was quadrupled for African American women

Dr. Cramer was the lead author of the original 1982 study linking talc use with ovarian cancer, which Johnson & Johnson all but ignored. At the Fox trial, Cramer cited 20 additional well-executed, case-control studies that support talc-ovarian cancer association over the last 30 years.

FDA Ignores Citizen's Petition for 30+ Years

Despite talc's widespread use, Johnson & Johnson and the FDA have overlooked or chosen to ignore these findings since the late 1970s.

In 1994, the Cancer Prevention Coalition filed a citizen's petition, suggesting a simple warning on talcum powder labels. The FDA responded by saying that it didn't have the time or resources to deal with the talc issue. Then, 20 years later, in 2014 (when the talc lawsuits were beginning to unravel) the FDA found the time. It responded by saying it would not require Johnson & Johnson to issue a warning. But the agency did acknowledge that it is "indisputable that particles can migrate from the exterior to the interior."

American Cancer Society on Talcum Powder & Potential for Ovarian Cancer

The American Cancer Society wrote in 2011 that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the genital area use of "talc-based body powder as 'possibly carcinogenic to humans.'"

The Society says, "Until more information is available, people concerned about using talcum powder may want to avoid or limit their use of consumer products that contain it."

FDA and Johnson & Johnson's Position on Talc and Ovarian Cancer

Both Johnson & Johnson and the FDA have been pressured from many fronts to include a warning about ovarian cancer on talcum powder packaging. As of early 2016, the agency has done nothing and Johnson & Johnson continues to dig in their heels.

As the jury foreman from the Fox trial said, "All J&J had to do was put a warning label on the box. But they didn't. They did nothing."

North Carolina Lawyers Offer FREE Talcum Powder Case Evaluation

If you believe talcum powder use could be tied to your ovarian cancer or that of a loved one's, please contact us immediately.

If your claim is approved, you may receive compensation to cover damages such as medical expenses, temporary and permanent physical injuries, and time out of work.

For more information or to have a North Carolina Lawyer review your potential Talcum Powder case (for free), follow the link or call us 24/7 at 1-866-900-7078.

Case Results & Settlements

The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin consults with a national network of attorneys on product liability, defective drugs, and defective products cases in an attempt to provide the best representation we can for our clients. Depending on the details of your case, our firm will likely refer your matter to another law firm with which we associate. We will only do this if we believe it is in your best interests and if you agree.