Twenty-two women were awarded a combined $4.6 billion in damages after a Missouri jury endorsed their claims that the company’s talcum powder contained asbestos and was responsible for their ovarian cancer. According to NBC News, Johnson & Johnson is still fighting off claims that their products cause cancer.
“Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies. Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed,” the company said, in a statement about the verdict.
The company says they plan to appeal the court’s decision.
The lawyer who represented the women noted that this was the first “talc- and asbestos-included ovarian cancer verdict” in the United States, according to Syracuse. The Business Insider reports that the ruling was the “sixth-largest product-defect award in US history.” By Friday, Johnson & Johnson’s shares were down nearly 3 percent.
According to Susan Gapstur, vice president and cancer epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, though some cases of claims of cancer-causing substances are vague, others are “indisputable.” But, she says, there are “many modifiable risk factors” for cancer.
Some risk factors include obesity, chain-smoking, alcohol consumption, HPV, and other infectious diseases. Chemicals such as benzene (which is usually found in gasoline and rubber lubricants, detergents, dyes, plastics, and pesticides) are also known to cause cancer. Asbestos, a silicate mineral, has long been determined to cause cancer. Talc, the main ingredient for Talcum powder, can sometimes contain asbestos. While Gapstur says it’s important to note that not all talc has asbestos, the kind that does can be harmful.
“Talc that has asbestos is generally accepted as being able to cause cancer if it is inhaled. This type of talc is not used in modern consumer products. The evidence about asbestos-free talc, which is still widely used, is less clear.”
Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says they have been unable to find asbestos in any of the talcum powder they reviewed, The International Agency for Research on Cancer has said that using talcum powder on one’s genitals can be “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
But many government researchers believe that more research needs to be done on the correlation between talc- and asbestos-caused cancer.