Talcum powder is a soft mineral which is used most commonly in the form of baby powder. Talc-based powder products have a variety of uses including absorbing moisture, preventing skin irritation, personal hygiene and odor, and is used in some feminine sanitary products.
While the uses of baby powder are quite varied and common, some serious questions have arisen concerning its safety.
Huge Jury Verdict in Missouri
This February, a Missouri Jury found Johnson & Johnson partially responsible for the death of Jackie Fox. Fox, who died of ovarian cancer, was a known user of Johnson & Johnson baby powder products. Jurors awarded $72 million to Fox’s devastated family stating that Johnson & Johnson failed to disclose that it’s talc-based feminine hygiene powder carried an ovarian cancer risk.
Ted Meadows, who represented Fox’s family, told The Scientist that this is a clear message to the pharmaceutical company from the jury that it is time to take talc products off the shelves or put warning labels on the bottles. Women have the right to make informed decisions about these products. Meadows is presenting two more cases next month, and there are many more out there.
Another lawsuit was won back in 2013, when the jury agreed that the plaintiff had not been informed about the potential risk, of which the company was aware, and that her ovarian cancer had indeed been caused by years of using Johnson & Johnson talc-based feminine hygiene powder. According to Top Class Action, testimony in a law suit that suggests the company may be responsible for up to 10,000 cases of ovarian cancer each year.
2008 Study Found Cancer Link
Daniel Cramer, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was one of the first to talk about the link between talc and ovarian cancer. Cramer and his colleagues used data from the Nurses’ Health Study and found a 40% increased risk for one type of ovarian cancer. In a 2008 study with more than 3,000 women, researchers found using talc just once a week increased the risk of cancer by 36%. Last year, a case-control study showed a 33% increase in risk when applying talc products genitally.
Findings have been mixed, and researchers have no clear means or method that might definitively show talc use as a cause for ovarian cancer. However, a glance at the findings in ovarian tumors show that talc can travel up the genital tract and gain access to the ovaries.
A study of human ovarian tumors found talc particles in 75% of the cases. In addition to this, Cramer found traces of talc in the pelvic lymph nodes of a woman with ovarian cancer, who had used talc powder for decades. In 2013, a Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel report on the cellular effect of talc, cited that “the compound” talc “increased proliferation, induced neoplastic transformation and increased [reactive oxygen species] generation time-dependently in the ovarian cells” and suggested that it “may contribute to ovarian neoplastic transformation.”
When contacted by The Scientist, the panel chose to not respond to the request for comment on the report. Other research has found that the talc particles create inflammation, which in turn creates an environment in which cancer cells thrive.
Ultimately, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer decided that “perineal use of talc-based body powder is possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Several body powders are made without talcum. They are instead manufactured with a cornstarch base and can be just as affective.
However, much like most of Johnson & Johnson’s powder products, there are still many talc-based powders out on the market. Make sure to educate yourself on the hygiene products you are using and what may be putting you at risk.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer - or another form of cancer - and you believe it may be connected with the use of Johnson & Johnson's baby powder or another product containing talcum powder, it may be in your best interests to consult with a qualified attorney. Use the contact form on this page or call (206) 727-4000 today to discuss your potential claim with our award-winning legal staff.