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Attorney Wants J&J’s Talcum Powder off Store Shelves

woman shopping in a store

In the wake of two multi-million dollar jury verdicts, Johnson & Johnson faces another wave of lawsuits filed by women and surviving members of families who claim the company’s talcum powder caused ovarian cancer. Plaintiff’s attorneys want the drug giant to pull its iconic baby powder and other talcum products from the market.

Two juries recently found J&J liable for hiding the risk of ovarian cancer linked to its Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products. The first February verdict awarded Jackie Fox’s estate $72 million after she filed a suit in Missouri claiming talcum powder caused ovarian cancer. She died before the trial was over. Gloria Ristesund filed the ovarian cancer lawsuit that led to a $55 million award early in May.

Now, J&J faces more than 1,000 talcum powder lawsuits.Women used talcum powder for decades for feminine hygiene. While other companies switched to cornstarch, J&J did not. Attorney Ted Meadows said the company should warn women about the risk of ovarian cancer with talcum powder use and wants them to pull it off store shelves.

“In talking to these women — and as a believer in the civil justice system in this country — [filing lawsuits] is a way to get the powerful in this country to do what they should,” Meadows said in a WIAT News 42 interview. “For Johnson & Johnson it is decades in the making. They should have been warning about the risk of ovarian cancer from genital talc use as early as the 1982 time frame.”

Meadows went on to say that his experts found that 10 percent of all ovarian cancer diagnoses each year are directly attributable to genital use of Johnson’s Baby Powder.

Legal Docs Show J&J Targeted Minorities and Obese Women

A group of 15 women and the estates of two women are the latest to file lawsuits against J&J over its talc products. The women’s ages range from late 20s to 65 years.

The complaints say J&J marketed some talcum powders specifically for female genital use even when it knew of the ovarian cancer risks. There are more than 20 studies, some dating back 40 years that show a significant increase in risk of ovarian cancer with talcum powder use in the genital area, the suit said.

According to legal documents, the baby powder maker also targeted specific groups of women.

“In the (Missouri) lawsuit they discovered papers that Johnson & Johnson markets to black, Hispanic and obese women as their prime market,” plaintiffs’ attorney Joshua Bradley told the Albuquerque Journal. “They have an increased risk of ovarian cancer as it is, but you add baby powder into the mix and it’s just a bad combination.”

J&J Responds

On May 2, 2016, J&J released a blog post called “4 Important Facts About the Safety of Talc” in response to the recent talcum powder lawsuits.

“Following decades of studies conducted by medical experts across the globe, it has been demonstrated through science, research and clinical evidence that few ingredients have the same performance, mildness and safety profile as cosmetic talc,” the company said. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which identifies potential risk factors for many diseases, has not identified talc as a risk factor for ovarian cancer.”

The company also says that a number of governmental agencies and expert panels reviewed study data and did not conclude that talc can cause cancer. It plans to appeal both recent jury verdicts.

Last modified: February 21, 2017


Michelle Y. Llamas is a senior content writer and researcher for Drugwatch. She is also the host of the Drugwatch Podcast where she talks to patients, experts and advocates about drugs, medical devices and health. She uses her technical writing experience to provide easy-to-understand information on how drugs and devices work. But she also tells people what happens when products that are supposed to improve their lives can hurt them.

Hide Sources

  1. Shepard, M. (2016, May 16). Seventeen women with NM ties sue over talcum powder. Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved from http://www.abqjournal.com/775026/seventeen-women-with-nm-ties-sue-over-talcum-powder.html
  2. Johnson & Johnson. (2015, May 2). 4 Important Facts About the Safety of Talc. Retrieved from http://www.blogjnj.com/2016/05/4-important-facts-about-safety-of-talc/
  3. Posey, S. (2016, May 17). Will Johnson & Johnson remove talcum powder from stores after recent lawsuits? WIAT.com. Retrieved from http://wiat.com/2016/05/13/will-johnson-johnson-remove-talcum-powder-from-stores-after-recent-lawsuits/
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