Hundreds of women have filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, claiming their talcum powder led to women getting ovarian cancer.
The women also claim Johnson & Johnson was negligent, and the gigantic pharmaceutical company should have warned women of the toxic chemicals found in their product.
Talcum powder may be the cause of ovarian cancer, according to a number of studies. FairWarning, a non-profit investigative news organization uncovered a large number of studies that claim regular use of talcum powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer.
The FairWarning website posted the following comment concerning women regularly using talcum powder.
“Since the early 1980s, a slew of studies had found that women who regularly used talc powder for feminine hygiene had higher than average rates of ovarian cancer.”
FairWarning spokesperson, Myron Levon, offered the following explanation to Public Radio International (PRI).
“There are in the neighborhood of 700 [lawsuits,] most of them in St. Louis and in New Jersey where Johnson & Johnson is headquartered. But the numbers are still going up, so there probably will be more.”
People have been using talcum powder for decades. Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder, which contains talcum powder, was one of the company’s first products—sold to consumers for more than 100 years.
However, according to FairWarning, research going as far back as 1976 found toxic chemicals in talcum powder—one of the world’s softest minerals.
FairWarning posted a brief excerpt of the results of a talcum powder study on their website.
“In 1976, researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York published test results on 20 talc-based consumer products, including baby and facial powders. They found two types of asbestos, tremolite, and anthophyllite, in 10 of the 20 products.”
Myron Levon said ovarian cancer is diagnosed in more than 12,000 women each year. Sadly, every year, close to 14,000 women die from ovarian cancer.
According to PRI, Levon added this astounding point.
“Researchers who believe there is a definite causal link estimate that talcum powder use could cause about 2,100 cases, or 10 percent, of those ovarian cancers.”
Johnson & Johnson claims other studies have determined talcum powder is safe, so there’s no reason to warn consumers.
Johnson & Johnson wrote a response to the allegations pertaining to their talcum powder product on the website.
“Few ingredients have demonstrated the same performance, mildness, and safety profile as cosmetic talc, which has been used for over 100 years by millions of people around the world. Talc is a common natural ingredient found in cosmetic products such as baby powder and adult body and facial powders, and in a range of other consumer products such as toothpaste, chewing gum, and aspirin.”
The American Cancer Society reported they found mixed results in various talcum powder studies.
“Many studies in women have looked at the possible link between talcum powder and cancer of the ovary. Findings have been mixed, with some studies reporting a slightly increased risk and some reporting no increase. Many case-control studies have found a small increase in risk. But these types of studies can be biased because they often rely on a person’s memory of talc use many years earlier. Two prospective cohort studies, which would not have the same type of potential bias, have not found an increased risk.”
Nonetheless, even though some studies did not find a correlation between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, FairWarning found 20 studies showing a link between the two and reported their findings on their website.
“Altogether, about 20 epidemiological studies have found increased rates of ovarian cancer risk for women using talc for hygiene purposes.”
Toxicologist Alfred P. Wehner wrote his thoughts on the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
“There are at least nine epidemiological studies published in the professional literature describing a statistically significant (albeit weak) association between hygenic talc use and ovarian cancer. Anybody who denies this risks that the talc industry will be perceived by the public like it perceives the cigarette industry: denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary. This would be a particularly tragic misperception in view of the fact that the industry does have powerful, valid arguments to support its position.”
Jury person, Christina Wilcox, offered a compromise. Perhaps Johnson & Johnson should consider putting a warning on their product to inform consumers of the possible risk and injury of using talcum powder. Let the customer decide whether they want to use the questionable product.
[Featured image via Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images]