Johnson & Johnson To Pay $55 Million In Lawsuit Linking Talcum Powder To Ovarian Cancer

Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $55 million to another defendant who claims the company’s talcum powder products cause ovarian cancer. In February, the company was ordered to pay the family of Jackie Fox, who is deceased, $72 million in damages. This week, a St. Louis, Missouri, jury awarded Gloria Ristesund, who has suffered from ovarian cancer for five years, $55 million in a similar case.

The lawsuit, which lists nearly 50 plaintiffs, claims Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products caused the plaintiffs to develop ovarian cancer due to “the unreasonably dangerous and defective nature of talcum powder” — which is the primary ingredient in both products.

According to the lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson promoted their Baby Powder and Shower to Shower to women as a safe means of keeping their skin dry and free from odor.

Although neither product was expressly advertised as such, the plaintiffs said they were led to believe the products were safe for use on their genitals.

The lawsuit specifically mentions advertising campaigns for Shower to Shower, which suggest “Your body perspires in more places than just under your arms” and that “SHOWER to SHOWER can be used all over your body.”

All listed plaintiffs reportedly used the Johnson & Johnson products “to dust their perineum for feminine hygiene purposes” prior to their cancer diagnosis.

The plaintiffs contend Johnson & Johnson was aware of the health risks associated with the products and their suggested use. Therefore, the company is accused of “wrongful and negligent conduct in the research, development, testing, manufacture, production, promotion, distribution, marketing, and sale of talcum powder.”

The lawsuit points to several studies, which suggest there are possible health risks associated with using talcum powder on the skin. As Johnson & Johnson was aware of these studies, and their conclusion that talcum powder was a possible carcinogen, which could cause ovarian cancer, the plaintiffs contend the company knowingly risked their customers’ lives.

Talc is a mineral substance composed of magnesium, oxygen, and silicon. As it is absorbent and reduces friction, it is often used in cosmetics and other skin care products.

Despite the research cited in the lawsuit, the American Cancer Society suggests there is no conclusive proof that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer.

“Findings have been mixed… 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… Two prospective cohort studies, which would not have the same type of potential bias, have not found an increased risk.”

The organization also cites other agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which determined talcum powder is “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and the United States National Toxicology Program, which “has not fully reviewed talc… as a possible carcinogen.”

So far, two plaintiffs were awarded damages in the Johnson & Johnson lawsuit. In February, a jury awarded $72 million to the family of Jackie Fox, who was a frequent user of the company’s talcum powder products and died of ovarian cancer in 2015.

This week, a jury awarded Gloria Ristesund, who was also a frequent Johnson & Johnson talcum product user who developed ovarian cancer, $55 million in damages.

CNN reports Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the decisions, but the company is facing nearly 50 more similar cases.

It is unclear whether the talcum powder used in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower can cause or increase the chances of developing ovarian cancer. However, the plaintiffs believe the company had enough information to assume the substance could be harmful.

As stated in the lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson had the option of replacing the potentially dangerous substance with cornstarch, which has similar properties and is not a suspected carcinogen.

[Image via P. Chinnapong/Shutterstock]