Baby powder is a common household item, especially for parents. But consumer goods giant Johnson & Johnson just lost another multimillion-dollar suit that claims the company’s talcum powder caused a woman’s fatal ovarian cancer.
About a year ago, a jury in the St. Louis Circuit Court awarded the family of Jacqueline Fox $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages after finding the company failed to warn consumers that their baby powder could be carcinogenic.
Before she died, Fox testified she used the talcum powder as a feminine hygiene product for decades. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013 and died two years later.
Johnson & Johnson to pay record-setting $110.5M
Now, Johnson & Johnson is back in the news after a jury in Virginia recently awarded a woman a record-setting $110.5 million in a similar lawsuit.
This is the fourth case involving allegations that the company ignored a possible link between ovarian cancer and its talcum-based products.
According to a report by the Associated Press, this most recent case involves 62-year-old Lois Slemp, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. The lawsuit claims Slemp’s cancer was caused by using Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products for more than 40 years — and alleges that the company ignored the possibility that its baby powder and other products could cause cancer.
Previous research, used in similar previous cases, shows that woman who use the products have a greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer. One researcher even urged Johnson & Johnson to add a warning label to its products.
The company has continued to defend its products and according to the AP, says it will “appeal and disputed the scientific evidence behind the plaintiffs’ allegations.”
The AP reports that the company “also noted that a St. Louis jury found in its favor in March and that two cases in New Jersey were thrown out by a judge who said there wasn’t reliable evidence that talc leads to ovarian cancer.”
“We are preparing for additional trials this year and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,” the statement said.
Back in the mid-1990s, the condom industry stopped using talc due to increasing concerns about the possible link it has to causing ovarian cancer.
Growing concerns about the risks of using talc
As more and more cases surface, the biggest question consumers want to know is whether they are at risk of cancer and does the company know about it?
These cases essentially boil down to two questions: Does talc cause cancer and, if it does, does Johnson & Johnson know about it?
Johnson & Johnson has denied any wrongdoing and in a previous case stated, “The recent U.S. verdict goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products.”
But the science isn’t exactly definitive. A National Cancer Institute study said there was little support that linked talc to all types of ovarian cancer, but added “perineal talc use may modestly increase the risk of invasive serous ovarian cancer.”
The International Agency for Research on Cancer took it a step further and classified perineal talc use as “possibly carcinogenic.” But the most damning evidence may have come from within the company itself.
A memo from the company’s medical consultant compared the risks of using hygienic talc to that of cigarettes. And that was evidently enough to convince the jury.
This could just be the tip of the iceberg for Johnson & Johnson. There are currently about 1,200 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson involving similar cases.