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For years, medical professionals knew that talcum powder was dangerous for babies and children to breathe. Now women claim in lawsuits that the fine-powder products gave them ovarian cancer. They’re taking action against Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical giant and talcum powder distributor.
Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson finds itself the subject of two class-action lawsuits filed in 2014, both of which claim the company is responsible for giving women ovarian cancer through its high-selling talcum powder products, Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower.
The class-action filings came one year after South Dakota resident Deane Berg won her legal claim that J&J was negligent because it did not warn her during three decades of Baby Powder use could put her at greater risk for developing ovarian cancer. Berg was diagnosed with that type of cancer in 2006.
Together, the litigation’s point to increased scrutiny on how responsible J&J is for not warning consumers – primarily women – about the dangers of its talc-based powders.
Over many decades, women applied talc-based powders to dusted their private parts with talcum powders or sprinkled them on undergarments and sanitary pads to keep the groin area cool and comfortable and discourage the development of vaginal odors. Additionally, the reproductive tracts of many women were exposed to talcum powder via diaphragms sprinkled with the product or condoms that were coated with it.
Although there is some conflicting research, most published medical studies indicate that talc-based powders, when used by women long term to keep moisture, odor and chafing under control around their vagina, are associated with ovarian cancer.
|Charges against Johnson & Johnson:|
|Violating consumers’ legal remedies|
|Violating the Unfair Competition law and business and professions code|
|Breach of implied warranty|
Estrada used Baby Powder from about 1950 to 2013 but does not have ovarian cancer. According to her law firm, her claim was filed on behalf of her and other women.
She cited research conducted as early as 1961 that showed the harmful effects of talcum powder. She also cited a lengthy list of other studies that linked talc to ovarian cancer.
A month after Estrada’s filing, Illinois resident Barbara Mihalich also filed a class-action claim against J&J and Johnson Consumer Companies. Her lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Illinois. Milalich claims that the defendants violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act and profited unjustly from its talcum powder products.
Her claim said she brought the legal action for herself and on behalf of “other similarly situated Illinois consumers” that bought Baby Powder.
Like Estrada, Mihalich was not diagnosed with ovarian cancer and does not claim any physical harm from the powder products.
Deane Berg, a South Dakota woman, used Johnson’s Baby Powder and its Shower to Shower powder as a feminine hygiene product and to ease chafing virtually daily from 1975 to 2007, according to her lawsuit. In late 2006, a pelvic exam showed clotting blood in her ovaries, and more tests led to a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
In her claim against J&J, she said that talc – a key ingredient in Johnson’s Baby Powder and in Shower to Shower – caused her cancer. She said J&J should have put a warning about the association of talc and ovarian cancer on the products, both of which women use to control odor and moisture in their vaginal areas.
In Berg’s case, cancerous tissues were removed from her body and examined by three doctors that found talc particles embedded in those tissues and concluded that talcum powder was the cause of her cancer. One of those doctors, Daniel Cramer of Harvard University, has studied the issue of talcum powder and ovarian cancer for three decades. In court testimony, he stated that talcum powder was likely a contributing factor in 10,000 cases of ovarian cancer annually.
Berg won her claim that the pharmaceutical company was negligent not to warn consumers about its talcum powder product dangers. Her victory, however, was a partial and Pyric one. The court ruled that J&J was not part of a conspiracy, and the jury decided the drug company did not have liability. The jury also awarded no financial damages in the case. Berg’s appeal for damages was denied by Judge Karen E. Schreier.
Despite the mounting evidence of serious health affects with genital use of talcum powder, major manufacturers of talcum powder products do not warn consumers of the potential dangers.
Lawyers across the country are reviewing potential cases of those who feel they were injured by talcum powder, an indication that manufacturers of these products can expect to see a lot more lawsuits filed against them.