Updated on: 2/26/2019
A St. Louis, Missouri jury announced a $72 million verdict in favor of the family of a woman who allegedly died as a result of ovarian cancer from using Johnson’s Baby Powder as a feminine hygiene product.
According to news reports about the case – which is part of a broader lawsuit that involves as many as 60 total plaintiffs – was brought on by the surviving family members of Jackie Fox, a woman from Alabama who had reportedly used Johnson’s Baby Powder as a feminine hygiene product for decades.
The plaintiffs are arguing that Johnson & Johnson knew – or should have known, at the very least – that there is an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who use its talcum powder products for personal hygiene. The company explicitly marketed the products as being safe and effective for female hygiene use.
Damaging Memo Surfaces in Lawsuit
At the center of compelling evidence in these cases is a memo written by a medical consultant in 1997 to officials at Johnson & Johnson. The memo, which is now nearly 20 years old, stated that anyone – including J&J officials – who denies a connection between talcum powder and the development of ovarian cancer is “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
This is not the first time that a potential link between various forms of cancer and talcum powder has been discovered, however. In the late 1960s, a series of studies found the presence of talcum powder and asbestos in the ovaries of woman with ovarian cancer. Asbestos has since been banned from production in the U.S., but talcum powder has not received the same treatment.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), talc is officially classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” while the American Cancer Society says data on the subject is inconclusive.
The verdict, which is likely to be appealed, included $10 million in "actual damages" and an additional $62 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson.