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A subject of multiple lawsuits since 2013, talcum powder has been identified as a potential carcinogen since the early 1960s.

The formula may have changed over the years – manufacturers removed asbestos from the ingredients in the 1970s – but the concerns remain the same: Using the product for feminine hygiene is linked with developing ovarian cancer. Yet, Johnson & Johnson, whose Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products have been studied and are now targeted by class action lawsuits, never updated their label to warn consumers of this potential danger.

Research & Background

Talcum powder is derived from talc, or hydrated magnesium silicate, an ingredient found in many household cleaning products. It has been used to prevent diaper rash with babies, but for adult women, talcum powder has been a feminine hygiene method dating back decades to reduce odor and prevent chafing. The product is dusted on the perineum, added to sanitary napkins or undergarments, and even used with diaphragms and condoms.

When this product is regularly used, particles migrate through a woman’s reproductive system, through the fallopian tubes to the ovaries. There, they can remain for years, inflaming the area and creating an environment engendering the growth of cancer cells.

Research showed a link between talcum powder usage and ovarian cancer in 1961, but only after a 1982 study confirming these findings did doctors allegedly inform Johnson & Johnson that a warning label should be included on the product’s packaging. However, while the label has evolved over the years, no text or graphic informing users of a possible cancer risk has ever been added.

By 2003, analysis from the National Institutes of Health, published in Anticancer Research, determined that women using baby powder in this fashion had a 33-percent greater chance of developing invasive epithelial ovarian cancer. The next year, these findings were affirmed again in the International Journal of Cancer.

According to more recent studies and observations, the percentage may be greater. A 2009 Harvard Medical School study placed the risk at 40 percent, while doctors claim that 10 percent out of the 14,000 cases of ovarian cancer per year in the U.S. may be linked with talcum powder. Other researchers estimate 10,000 cases out of this figure could be associated with usage.

Lawsuits

Berg v. Johnson & Johnson et al. spurred the recent string of class action lawsuits. This wrongful death suit alleged the plaintiff used Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder for 32 years, before she died from ovarian cancer at 49.

This case was the first of its type in multiple regards. One, it was the first lawsuit to target asbestos-free talcum powder. Two, tissues extracted from the plaintiff’s body revealed talc particles embedded in her ovaries.

The court decided a verdict in 2013 in favor of the plaintiff, although no punitive or compensatory damages were awarded. Following, more class action lawsuits at the state level began in April 2014, with plaintiffs alleging Johnson & Johnson has been aware of the link between its baby powder and ovarian cancer but chose not to warm consumers. One filed in the Southern District of Illinois further alleges Johnson & Johnson violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act for this action.

While the FDA has been inconclusive about the risks associated with baby powder, more consumers continue to come forward. Companies must be held accountable for the items they put on the market, including all possible health risks, and if you or a loved one had been using baby powder regularly for feminine hygiene and believe you developed ovarian cancer as a result, bring your claim to Trantolo & Trantolo. Contact any of our Connecticut locations to speak with an experienced attorney about a product liability, class action, or wrongful death lawsuit.